In the summer of 2021, Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi offered the following answer when asked about the President’s power to unilaterally cancel student loan debt. “The president can’t do it, so it’s not even a discussion,” she added. said. The president can delay repayment, as has happened after the COVID-19 pandemic, she added, but “it would take an act of Congress, not an executive order, to cancel student loan debt. “. That seems to be it.
Yet, about a year later, President Joe Biden did cancel up to $20,000 in student loan debt for most borrowers and, in direct contradiction to Pelosi’s statement, he did it entirely through the executive branch. There was no act of Congress.
How was it legal? What gave the president the power to unilaterally cancel student debt?
It turned out that the answer was the pandemic. As Raison‘s Damon Root wrote in August, when Biden announced his debt cancellation plan last month, administration lawyers quoted the Higher Education Relief Opportunities for Students, or HEROES Actof 2003, a post-9/11 law that “permits the Secretary of Education to remove or modify the requirements of the federal student financial assistance program to assist students and their families or academic institutions affected by war, another military operation or national emergency.”
The law was clearly intended to give the President the power to forgive student loan debt for those directly involved in fighting the War on Terror. But in Biden’s revisionist quote, it became a versatile tool for massive debt cancellation via executive action, based on the argument that the COVID-19 pandemic was a permanent national emergency.
The pandemic, in this formulation, has given Biden extraordinary powers — powers that under normal circumstances the president would not have.
It was an inherently dubious justification, given the new and expansive reading of the HEROES Act. But Biden completely undermined it on a 60 minutes interview this weekend when he stated, emphatically, that “the pandemic is over”.
“The pandemic is over. We still have a problem with COVID. We’re still working on it a lot. But the pandemic is over,” President Biden told 60 Minutes in an interview in Detroit. https://t.co/7SixTE3OMT pic.twitter.com/s5fyjRpYuX
— 60 Minutes (@60Minutes) September 19, 2022
If the pandemic is over, there is no ongoing national emergency, which means that the already fragile legal foundation on which the Biden administration based its action has now entirely crumbled.
Moreover, the administration had previously acknowledged that it did not have the legal standing to adopt a policy based on a pandemic emergency.
In a message pointing out the legal implications of Biden’s inconsistency, National exam‘s Charles Cooke notes that “IIn May, the Biden administration (correctly) signaled that it was forced to end the use of Title 42 of the Border Public Health Services Act of 1944 because the Covid-19 emergency was past. In other words, the administration had already concluded that the pandemic was no longer an emergency that warranted extraordinary action months before the student loan cancellation was announced. But it was of course a policy that the Biden administration wanted to end. For legal purposes, the Biden administration’s position was that the pandemic was over when it needed to be over, but ongoing when it needed to be ongoing.
The Biden administration’s legal basis for canceling student debt via executive branch action was already ill-rationalized nonsense, shelled out to enact blatantly illegal policy that served as an expensive gift to Biden voters. Biden 60 minutes The interview shows that he can’t even be bothered to keep his story shoddy.