Former Ed. Dept. general counsel: Biden likely lacks authority to cancel student debt

Though President Joe Biden has faced significant pressure from the left to cancel a substantial amount of outstanding federal student loan debt, a former top Obama-era Education Department lawyer believes the commander in chief simply lacks the authority to make such a move, as the Wall Street Journal reports.

The outlet obtained an analysis produced by Charlie Rose, who previously served as general counsel in the Department of Education, and in it, the lawyer raises serious doubts about the legal viability of any Biden administration plan to forgive student debt on the sort of mass scale many Democrats have urged.

According to Rose’s assessment, any initiative designed to cancel debt for all borrowers without taking individual needs and financial means into consideration would be extremely vulnerable to court challenges that would likely be brought by student loan companies.

In Rose’s estimation, “If the issue is litigated, the more persuasive analyses tend to support the conclusion that the Executive Branch likely does not have the unilateral authority to engage in mass student debt cancellation.”

During the 2020 presidential campaign, Biden signaled his openness to potentially canceling upwards of $10,000 in student loan debt per federal borrower, though progressive Democrats such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (MA), among others, have argued for far larger forgiveness amounts, up to and including the entirety of all outstanding balances.

Recently, as The Hill noted, Biden indicated that he would be “taking a hard look” at some level of debt forgiveness, but that the $50,000 amount suggested by some in his party was not under consideration.

The administration continues to tinker with ideas that might help Biden keep his pledge to provide some degree of relief without courting the ire of those who argue that widespread debt forgiveness amounts to a regressive scenario in which the lion’s share of the benefits go to highly-educated, high-earning Americans, courtesy of all taxpayers – including non-degree holders and those who paid their own way through school.

As such, White House press secretary Jen Psaki revealed last week that the administration is contemplating debt relief options for individuals earning less than $125,000 annually or couples with incomes under $250,000, with debt incurred for law and medical programs potentially excluded.

Regardless of which route the president attempts to take in order placate the left and essentially buy the votes of progressives who have soured on his administration in large numbers, it appears, at least in Rose’s opinion, that the end result will be protracted litigation with unfavorable odds of success.