Student Loan Forgiveness Raises Emergency Powers Questions
Plus: Democrats begin wrangling for top oversight position.
When President Joe Biden said Wednesday that he would wipe out hundreds of billions of Americans’ college debt—$10,000 for every debt holder making less than $125,000 a year, $20,000 if the holder had attended college on Pell Grants—most critics focused on the move’s arbitrariness, naked constituency-fluffing, and economic regressiveness. But some also found time to deride Biden’s seemingly ludicrous justification for why he had the statutory authority to make the move in the first place: a post-9/11 law giving the White House authority to reduce the student debt of those who “suffered direct economic hardship as a direct result of a war or other military operation or national emergency.” The national emergency in question, Team Biden argued, is the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
A flimsy, backfilled fig-leaf justification? Sure. But don’t assume that means it won’t hold up in court. The reality is that the president’s emergency powers are significantly broader than you'd likely expect.