Congressional Republicans Introduce Measure to Roll Back Biden’s Student-Loan Relief

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While implementation of President Joe Biden’s student-loan relief remains blocked in court, congressional Republicans have decided to put it to a vote.

Representative Bob Good (R., Va.) and Senator Bill Cassidy (R., La.) are leading the effort to roll back the program in their respective chambers. It will take the form of a disapproval measure under the Congressional Review Act, which allows the first branch to check administrative agency actions. The measure will only require simple majorities in both chambers.

The effort’s leaders are cognizant of the fact that Biden will most likely veto the measure and there won’t be enough support to overturn the veto. However, the measure will force Congress to go on the record, something which will prove particularly complicated for Democrats. Not all members of the caucus have supported Biden’s student-loan relief in the past.

The president issued his first veto earlier this month after bipartisan coalitions in both chambers sought to disapprove of a Department of Labor rule that allows retirement fund managers to consider social and environmental factors. That measure was also brought under the Congressional Review Act. The concern in both cases is that administrative agencies are extending past their statutory authority and legislative intent.

The particular act which the Department of Education took to authorize the student-loan relief is the HEROES Act of 2003.

The statute’s text reads: “the Secretary of Education…may waive or modify any statutory or regulatory provision applicable to the student financial assistance programs…as the Secretary deems necessary in connection with a war or other military operation or national emergency” so as to ensure, among other things, that “recipients of student financial assistance…are not placed in a worse position financially in relation to that financial assistance because of their status as affected individuals.”

The Biden administration has argued that the Education Department acted within the bounds of what the statute authorizes. However, critics have argued that the Covid-19 pandemic is not what Congress meant by national emergency and that there is little evidence that all recipients of student loans are in a worse financial position.

The topic of vague clauses in congressional laws and whether Congress intends to give agencies room to interpret is a much-discussed issue in administrative law. Some argue Congress should begin to become much more more specific with its laws so as to ensure the executive branch doesn’t improperly legislate.

Cassidy called the relief scheme “unlawful” in his statement. Good chose to zero in on the relief scheme being “the latest in a series of costly moves by the Biden Administration which continue to drive up inflation.”

The Supreme Court is expected to decide the program’s constitutionality before the conclusion of the present term. However, there is the possibility that the lawsuits currently pending will not succeed on the grounds that the challengers don’t have standing. During oral arguments last month, Justice Amy Coney Barrett appeared skeptical of plaintiff standing in one of the cases.

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