Biden overstepped his authority with student loan forgiveness


Does President Joe Biden have the authority as chief executive to forgive billions of dollars of student loans with the stroke of his pen?

Probably not, and this is the problem with the pernicious presidential power creep.

Congress could have included the forgiveness of student loans in its most recent reconciliation bill – the Inflation Reduction Act – but lawmakers clearly chose not to endorse that specific action which has been on the wish list of progressives for years.

Instead, Biden is taking the action via executive order.

The president is claiming the authority to do so under a law that empowers the Secretary of Education – a presidential appointee – to modify student loans. We’ll let the courts quibble over whether wiping out up to $10,000 and $20,000 of debt for those individuals making less than $125,000 (joint filers $250,000) is a “modification” or if it is of such significance to the federal budget that it exceeds the president’s authority.

The power of the purse is solely allocated to Congress by the U.S. Constitution, and presidents should respect that foundational separation of powers. In recent history, however, there has been a glaring example of a president failing to do exactly that and getting showered with approval from his party.

President Donald Trump wanted to fund a wall on the southern border that he said would prevent illegal immigration. It was a key campaign promise, similar to Biden’s promise to forgive some student loans.

Trump pressured the Republican-controlled legislative branch to allocate funding in a continuing resolution for his wall – they declined.

He vetoed the bill.

Congress overrode his veto in a remarkable show of bipartisan will and did not cave to the president’s demands. However, Trump then used an emergency declaration to take $5.7 billion in funding already allocated for projects in the Department of Defense to fund his wall.

This is not a what-about-ism debate; this is a condemnation of both actions.

As we saw with the border wall and with President Barack Obama’s granting of deportation relief to those who were brought to America as children without legal status, it is everyday people who get caught in the middle of these overreaching executive actions. Those with deferred deportation under the DACA order are still living in limbo, another example of the failure of Congress to act with compassion to bring relief to those who are American in all but their paperwork.

We fear that those who get their student loans forgiven may always be waiting for the other shoe to drop – will a Republican president restore the debt? Will the program be tied up in courts for years, and if so, should people start making payments again when the pause is lifted, or would they be wise to wait?

The student loan forgiveness would be cleaner and carry more weight if it had been executed by Congress, and it would have also come with a report by the Congressional Budget Office so Americans would have a clearer picture of the cost of the program.

Like those who came before him, Biden has overstepped his authority.

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