Slate argues Congress may have tanked the legal case against Biden's student loan forgiveness

 June 8, 2023

Citing some meandering logic that is difficult to follow at times, Slate argued in a piece by Alex Rowell on Wednesday that Congress may have tanked conservative arguments against President Joe Biden's executive student loan forgiveness action by something it did in the debt relief deal.

See if you can follow this.

One of the arguments made to the Supreme Court against loan forgiveness is the major questions doctrine, a rule that says there must be "clear congressional authorization" for an agency to use "ancillary statutory provisions to fundamentally transform their authority to great effect."

According to Slate, Congress gave authorization for Biden's student loan forgiveness when it failed to enact laws prohibiting such forgiveness and passed the debt ceiling deal, which extended the loan pause for three more months.

Interesting argument

The failure of Congress to pass laws banning or negating Biden's loan forgiveness and the fact that it didn't say in the debt ceiling bill that the Department of Education secretary couldn't pause loans in the future amounted to tacit permission for the Biden DOE to extend loan forgiveness, Rowell argued.

The pause was actually broader than debt forgiveness because it applied to all borrowers, whereas forgiveness only applies to certain income levels and Pell Grant recipients.

So if the DOE can pause student loans with Congress's blessing, why can't it forgive them?

It's an interesting argument. Here's where it starts to break down.

Breaking it down

First of all, Congress's failure to pass laws prohibiting loan forgiveness is due to partisanship and power dynamics, not the merits of such an action.

Biden has overreached in a myriad of actions while president, and for the most part Congress has been unable to stop him because it doesn't have a veto-proof majority in either chamber.

It doesn't make sense that Biden can do anything he wants just because Congress doesn't have a way to stop him. The courts are there to be a check on executive overreach precisely because veto-proof majorities are rare and hard to come by.

Second, there was a clear reason for the student loan pause, even if it did drag on a bit longer than it should have. The pandemic made job prospects uncertain, and the DOE decided to make the playing field level by pausing student loan payments temporarily for everyone until economic footing was more solid.

Entirely different

It's an entirely different thing to forgive people's student loans permanently without a crisis or other compelling reason to precipitate the action.

Surely, the Supreme Court will see the flaws in this new logic and end Biden's overreach in at least this one area.

" A free people [claim] their rights, as derived from the laws of nature."
Thomas Jefferson
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