In an obvious effort to boost his anything-but-sunny track record before the 2022 midterms, President Joe Biden finally admitted in a Sunday “60 Minutes” interview that “the pandemic is over.” The gaffe-prone president’s statement appeared to upset his party’s plans of using Covid-19 as an excuse to exercise unconstitutional control forever, judging by the meltdown in newsrooms and on Twitter. But Biden also inadvertently admitted his recent vote-buying scheme to “forgive” student loans is against the law.
When Biden announced plans to “forgive” $10,000 in student loans ($20,000 for Pell Grant recipients) for certain borrowers last month, it was an obvious political ploy to give young voters money and wink at them to remember it on Election Day. It was a crime against the word “forgiveness,” since neither the universities nor government lenders are “forgiving” anything, but rather are charging taxpaying bystanders to pay students’ debts. Above all, it was unconstitutional and illegal, considering the Constitution’s demand that “No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law” and the fact that the president has no legislative authority to dictate those appropriations.
But the Biden administration has never been one to let the Constitution get in the way, so Biden’s Education Department’s Office of the General Counsel threw together a hogwash argument claiming that the Covid-19 “emergency” authorized the plan. Even The Atlantic admitted, “Biden’s Student-Debt Rescue Plan Is a Legal Mess.”
“[W]e have determined that the Higher Education Relief Opportunities for Students (‘HEROES’) Act of 2003 grants the Secretary authority that could be used to effectuate a program of targeted loan cancellation directed at addressing the financial harms of the COVID-19 pandemic,” General Counsel Lisa Brown wrote. The HEROES Act is a law passed shortly after 9/11, designed to support members of the military by allowing the education secretary to provide student loan-related relief “to respond to a war or other military operation or national emergency.” Brown claimed that the never-ending Covid “pandemic” was justification enough that “this authority could be used to effectuate a program of categorical debt cancellation directed at addressing the financial harms caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
But now — if the pandemic is “over,” as Biden has finally acknowledged — doesn’t that mean Biden’s Education Department can no longer use it as a “national emergency” to try to justify its power grab? Even if the HEROES Act could be legally stretched to include Covid-related student-debt handouts, Biden just rendered his own agency’s legal argument null.
It’s also senseless to declare the pandemic any more “over” now than it was less than a month ago. The New York Times reported the daily average number of Covid deaths at 463 on Aug. 25, the day Biden announced his student loan ploy. On Sept. 18, the day his “60 Minutes” interview aired, the daily average was 464.
Even Biden himself had previously expressed doubts multiple times since he was elected about a president’s authority to write checks from taxpayers to student borrowers.
“I’m going to get in trouble for saying this. … For example, it’s arguable that the president may have the executive power to forgive up to $50,000 in student debt,” he said in December 2020. “Well, I think that’s pretty questionable. I’m unsure of that. I’d be unlikely to do that.”
In February 2021, he commented, “I’m prepared to write off a $10,000 debt, but not 50 [thousand dollars]. … Because I don’t think I have the authority to do it by signing the pen.” The next day, the White House insisted the $10,000 figure “was not meant as a descriptor for executive action but to reflect his endorsement of achieving that goal through legislation,” according to Politico.
Even Democrat House Speaker Nancy Pelosi jumped in to say in July 2021, “The president can’t do it,” referring to the use of taxpayer dollars to pay off student borrowers’ debts. “That’s not even a discussion.”
The illegality of Biden’s student debt “forgiveness” was no secret to anyone with a working knowledge of the U.S. Constitution. But Biden’s admission on “60 Minutes” suggests it’s no secret to him either.