President Biden snapped at a reporter who asked Friday why he had given “millions of borrowers false hope” after the Supreme Court overturned the administration’s plan to unilaterally forgive more than $400 billion in student loan debt.
“Why did you give millions of borrowers false hope?” the journalist asked the president. “You’ve doubted your own authority here in the past.”
“I didn’t give any false hope,” answered Biden, 80. “The question was whether or not I would do even more than was requested. What I did, I felt was appropriate, and was able to be done and would get done. I didn’t give borrowers false hope. But the Republicans snatched away the hope that they were given, and it’s real, real hope.”
“Did you overstep your authority?” another reporter asked.
“I think the court misinterpreted the Constitution,” the president responded before walking out of the Roosevelt Room of the White House.
The Court’s conservative majority struck down Biden’s loan relief plan for as many as 43 million student borrowers as unconstitutional, saying the president and Education Secretary Miguel Cardona could not “rewrite” a 2003 law meant to assist veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
“The question here is not whether something should be done; it is who has the authority to do it,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the Court’s majority opinion. “So too here, where the Secretary of Education claims the authority, on his own, to release 43 million borrowers from their obligations to repay $430 billion in student loans. The Secretary has never previously claimed powers of this magnitude”.
Biden’s plan would have forgiven up to $10,000 in federal student loans for Americans making under $125,000 and households earning under $250,000 — and canceled as much as $20,000 for Pell Grant recipients.
“The money was literally about to go out the door, and then Republican-elected officials and special interests stepped in,” Biden claimed before comparing the student loan handout to the COVID-era Paycheck Protection Program.
But that program — which provided federal relief for employers to keep workers on their payroll — was passed almost unanimously by Congress as part of the CARES Act, unlike Biden’s debt relief proposal. Both Democrats and Republicans also benefited from PPP loans.
“The hypocrisy is stunning,” Biden added. “You can’t help a family making 75 grand a year, but you can help a millionaire and you have your debt forgiven.”
“So let me be clear, Republicans in Congress, it’s not about reducing the deficit. It’s not about fairness and forgiving loans. It’s only about forgiving loans they have to pay,” he said. “Today the Supreme Court sided with them. I believe the Court’s decision to strike down my student debt relief program was a mistake, was wrong.”
Biden went on to say he had already asked Cardona to make use of another law — the Higher Education Act of 1965 — “to provide student debt relief to as many borrowers as possible as quickly as possible.”
The president also said he will create a 12-month “on-ramp” to defer bills for some borrowers based on income once federal student loan repayments resume Oct. 1, before laughing off Republican claims that his plan was “a giveaway to the privileged.”
Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and House Educations and the Workforce Committee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) said in a joint release after the president’s remarks that Biden was still unlawfully circumventing Congress to promise more loan forgiveness.
“President Biden’s student loan scheme is still illegal and does not forgive debt but instead transfers it from those who willingly took on the debt to those who never went to college or sacrificed to pay their student loans,” Cassidy said. “The additional year-long pause on student loan repayment is a direct violation of the debt ceiling agreement President Biden made with Speaker McCarthy.”
“Taxpayers just got sucker punched — again — by this administration,” Foxx added. “Today, President Biden announced that taxpayers will be forced to pay for the costliest regulation in our nation’s history, which will only exacerbate inflated college costs and excessive debt balances. Additionally, Biden confirmed plans to ignore the law and extend the repayment pause while also ignoring the Supreme Court and still trying to do blanket loan forgiveness. What the President is pushing is illegal, inflationary, and irresponsible.”
By Josh Christenson