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Student Loans and Lawlessness

Angry Biden points fingers - student protester
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By: Rich Lowery – nationalreview.com – April 11, 2023

Only one side has to play by the rules.

Here we go again. President Joe Biden has, once more, claimed to find astonishingly wide-ranging authority to forgive student loans hiding in minute places deep in the federal code.

Biden has already been rebuked for this practice by the Supreme Court, yet he remains undeterred.

He’s not going to let niggling concerns about the legality of a new half-trillion-dollar program get in the way of an important substantive and political goal.

This is pure executive willfulness unhinged from any commitment to abide by the law or the will of Congress. It is a profound trespass against our constitutional order. It represents a mind-set deeply corrosive of the foundations of our system.

And yet, there’s not a peep from the same people who think democracy and the rule of law are teetering on the brink of collapse, indeed might be extinguished if the 2024 presidential election goes the wrong way.

The threat of Donald Trump has done nothing to convince the Left that, to show its sincerity about protecting democracy and the rule of law, to avoid creating precedents that can be exploited by Trump, to re-enforce norms that protect our system, it should abide by elementary constraints that once were taken for granted.

Trump’s enemies invite us to expand our imagination about what abuses of power he might visit upon us if he wins again. But, when it comes to executive power, it doesn’t require much imagination. What might he do? He might do this, exactly the sort of stretching of the law that Biden has serially engaged in when it comes to student loans (and that Trump himself engaged in regarding the funding of the border wall).

If you’re worried about Trump’s potential executive abuses, the last thing you should want to do is give him warrant to say, “The other side does it, too. Remember that time they tried to spend $475 billion without congressional authorization or justification in the law?”

This never occurs to Trump’s enemies on the left, though, because fundamentally they don’t care about process or the law. If they did, they’d care about Biden violating it as much as Trump.

If you think lawlessness is good or bad depending on who’s engaging in it or whether it advances something you support, you aren’t a defender of our system; you are simply the other side of the coin of a threat to it.

The Biden exercise on student loans is laughable on its face. Scrounging around in the federal code to try to come up with a couple of words that — in a way no one had ever noticed before, including the people in Congress who wrote them — supposedly authorize a massive student-debt-“forgiveness” program is an inherent abuse.

Think about it. If Congress tomorrow passed a debt-“forgiveness” program that applied to as many as 30 million people and cost an estimated $475 billion, it would be a BFD, one of Joe Biden’s foremost legislative accomplishments, and a major bragging point in the campaign.

He’s purporting to have basically found this authority and money between the couch cushions of the federal code.

The Biden debt scheme has basically come in three tranches. The first was struck down by the Supreme Court. The second was announced a while ago and now is being challenged by two different sets of states. And then there is the new action that was announced on Monday.

The fundamental legal question is whether, as the Supreme Court famously put it once, elephants can be found in mouseholes; whether, in other words, a regulatory scheme can be changed in a hugely consequential way by a vague or ancillary clause here or there.

After the Supreme Court said there’s no elephant in the mousehole of the HEROES Act, the Biden administration is arguing that one can be found in some mouseholes in the Higher Education Act.

But there are no elephants, just a president who thinks that, if the cause is politically expedient and righteous, he can make new laws without having to bother with Congress.

Faithfulness to our system should begin with faithfulness to our system, but for the progressives, becoming sticklers about the process and the law will have to wait until Trump is president again.

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Source: Student Loan Debt: Biden’s Claims of Authority Lawless | National Review