Last week, a federal court issued a temporary halt on the Biden administration’s student loan forgiveness plan. This could signal the beginning of the end for this leftist pipedream. It also highlights how President Biden knew this policy was illegal, but still chose to give millions of Americans false hope for a temporary spike in support conveniently just before the midterm elections.

In August, Biden announced his plan to cancel $10,000 in student loan debt for borrowers making less than $125,000. For couples that file jointly, the limit would be $250,000.   

This plan is blatantly unconstitutional.

To legally justify this plan, the administration cited the HEROES Act of 2003. This bill gives the Education Secretary the authority to grant student loan relief during a war, military operation, or national emergency. Specifically, the Secretary is authorized to waive/modify student loans on behalf of those “who are affected individuals [to ensure they] are not placed in a worse position financially in relation to that financial assistance because of their status as affected individuals.”   

This bipartisan bill is a meager six pages long and was obviously designed to provide relief for military personnel. In the bill’s findings—the section that highlights the purpose and need for a piece of legislation—every finding, of which there were six, referenced the military. Specifically, those who were in active duty/service or transitioning out of active duty/service.  

Further, the U.S. Constitution gives only Congress the authority to both appropriate funds from the Treasury and make rules/regulations respecting property belonging to the United States. 

Congress did not cede this authority to the executive in the 2003 HEROES Act: the bill never gave the executive that much leeway nor do student loan borrowers fit the definition of “affected individuals” under this law.   

In Whitman v. American Trucking Associations Inc. (2001), Justice Scalia made clear that Congress does not hide major, fundamental regulatory changes via vague changes in the law: “Congress… does not, one might say, hide elephants in mouseholes.”  

Still, the administration has taken this legislation and claimed that the pandemic, which has been declared a national emergency, allows broad cancellation of student loans for millions of Americans, regardless of whether they served in the military. As is obvious, this is a dishonest interpretation of the bill.

The administration almost certainly knows this, but chose to move forward in the hopes that no one would have the standing to bring a lawsuit against the federal government. Admittedly, this was a smart strategy. In theory, this policy wouldn’t directly hurt anyone despite being illegal and indirectly hurting hundreds of millions of Americans.

In a speech to students at Delaware State University, President Biden said that 22 million Americans had already applied for federal student loan forgiveness. Of course, he received a warm welcome from the students who were promised $10,000 to $20,000 in “free” money.

He forgot to mention that the method by which he intends to “forgive” their loans is sloppy and illegal. He forgot to mention that he was likely lying to them about the money they’d receive.

The circumstances were akin to “Scott’s Tots” from The Office—when The Office TV show’s character Michael Scott promised an entire third-grade class that he’d pay for their college tuition only to have to break it to them, 10 years later, that he couldn’t fulfill his promise.

In the same way that Michael Scott made promises to gain acceptance and praise, President Biden has promised loan forgiveness to boost his atrocious approval numbers.

In sum, student loan borrowers shouldn’t hold their breath. There is a good chance the administration’s promised “relief” never comes. After all, if Biden refuses to stay true to his oath to preserve and defend the Constitution, then he must be held accountable by the courts.