When President Joe Biden announced his plan to wipe out up to $20,000 in individual student loan debt, he received praise from millions of Americans struggling to pay off their staggering bills. At the same time, a number of prominent Republicans reacted with outrage for a number of reasons — including allegations that he did not have the power to enforce such an act without congressional approval.
This week, the Department of Justice addressed the matter in a statement that sided with the White House.
Inside the HEROES Act
Biden indicated that his authority to forgive the debt stemmed from the 2003 Higher Education Relief Opportunities for Students (or HEROES) Act. When then-President George W. Bush signed that bill into law, it gave the federal government the ability to address certain financial concerns when the nation was embroiled in an emergency.
Citing the COVID-19 pandemic as a sufficient emergency situation, the Biden administration vigorously defended its move against GOP critics.
The DOJ agrees
According to a decision handed down on Wednesday by the Justice Department, the HEROES Act provides Education Secretary Miguel Cardona the legal cover necessary to implement the student loan amnesty.
“The plan falls squarely within the plain text of the HEROES Act; indeed, a central purpose of the statute is to authorize the Secretary to grant student-loan-related relief to at-risk borrowers because of a national emergency — precisely what the Secretary did here.”
Furthermore, the agency concluded that the states and advocacy groups behind the lawsuit against the Biden administration do not have standing in the courts to pursue their challenges.
The Justice Department concluded: “On the merits, respondents challenge the Secretary’s plan as exceeding his statutory authority, arbitrary and capricious, and procedurally improper. Each contention is wrong.”