Americans have found themselves worrying about their financial future during the COVID-19 pandemic. As jobs were put out, Americans were expediently sent stimulus checks by the federal government. Additionally, payments for mortgages and other loans were deferred.
Now that the pandemic seems to be almost through, Americans find themselves having to deal with the deferment deadlines. The bill is coming due, especially for one specific group of Americans: college students.
Coming into office in the midst of political and economic turmoil exacerbated by the pandemic, President Joe Biden made it a point to advocate for the more progressive wing of the Democratic Party. This wing demanded certain actions to be taken with regard to issues such as voting rights and student loan relief. Understandably, the president and the progressives would take every legal and constitutional avenue to ensure their goals were met.
Legislation such as HR1 and HR4 were introduced to address voting rights and successfully passed in the lower chamber of Congress. On the flip side, the Biden administration and the progressives touted the Build Back Better Act as a way to make higher education a public good, thus satisfying their desire to tackle the student loan crisis. Similar to the voting rights legislation, the Build Back Better Act successfully passed the House. However, once these bills reached the Senate, different outcomes occurred. Because the Democrats have a razor-thin majority in the Senate, they cannot enjoy the same luxury as Democrats in the House. Democrats in the Senate must consider the opinions of their more moderate party members. Two of those moderates, Sen. Joe Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, have not reciprocated the same feelings on the Build Back Better Act as their progressive counterparts have. Without the support of these two senators, Democrats have stalled on their agenda to bring forth sweeping student loan relief.
Manchin and Sinema have been pressured to change their stances on the Build Back Better Act. However, they both remain firm in their positions and because of it, the Democrats have done all they could have done to legally push for student loan relief. However, the dissatisfaction among progressives has inspired a newer idea, one which clearly crosses the line of legality and constitutionality. This idea is for the Biden administration to act alone in resolving the student loan crisis. With student loan relief legislation now having failed to pass both chambers of Congress, progressives are seeking to subvert the will of Congress (and in effect the will of the people), by pushing for the president to take an unprecedented step, one which would really divide the country and expand the powers of the executive branch in dangerous ways.
Biden, as the President of the United States, has special powers meaning he commands the armed forces and is able to conduct the foreign affairs of the United States in ways Congress cannot. However, Congress, unlike Biden, has the ability to control the budget of the U.S. Federal Government. This power is often referred to as the “Power of the Purse.” Any budgetary issue within the federal government or any re-allocation of funding must go through Congress. The president has no authority whatsoever to control the budget. Any attempt to take executive action on student loan relief would imply the president is now taking control of the budget. This sort of action is not only stripping Congress of one of its great powers, but it is also an abuse of power on the president’s part and more than likely to be an impeachable offense.
With all of this said, Democrats and Republicans should seek to address and resolve the rising costs of higher education which are impacting students and their families. Now that broad student loan relief has been tabled in the legislative branch, Democrats should seek to meet with Republicans on a middle ground to work for a more pragmatic approach to solving the rising costs of college. Any attempt by the president to relieve student debt through executive action would be fatal to American unity and the separation of powers which hold our country together.
-McKinley Peter Snyder