Sen. Ossoff: There Is 'Substantial Executive Discretion' For Biden to Forgive Student Loans

(CNS News) — When asked whether President Joe Biden has the authority to forgive federal student loan debt, Senator Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.) said there is “substantial executive discretion” in this area.

At the U.S. Capitol on Nov. 16, CNS News asked Sen. Ossoff, “Does President Biden have the unilateral authority to forgive federal student loans?”

Ossoff replied, “I have seen legal interpretation suggesting that there is some substantial executive discretion in this area of policy. I am aware as well that there are currently challenges in federal court and that there is ongoing litigation.”

The federal district court for the Northern District of Texas issued an order on Nov. 10 vacating Biden’s executive order to forgive an estimated $400 billion in student loan debt. The court declared that Biden’s plan was “one of the largest exercises of legislative power without congressional authority in the history of the United States.”

The court noted that Biden’s debt forgiveness plan effected three types of federal student loans. These included “Direct Loans,” “Federal Family Education Loans” (FFEL), and “Perkins Loans.”

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“With Direct Loans,” said the court, “the federal government provides loans directly to borrowers, who are responsible for repaying the government.”

“With FFEL,” the court said, “the federal government pays lenders to offer student loans, and the federal government guarantees their repayment.”

“With Perkins Loans,” the court continued, “colleges loan money to students, and the federal government guarantees their repayment.”

In forgiving $400 billion worth of these loans, the Biden administration argued in court that it was acting under the Higher Education Relief Opportunities Act of 2003, known as the “HEROES Act.”

“The HEROES Act grants the Secretary of Education the authority to ‘waive or modify any statutory or regulatory provision applicable to the student financial assistance programs under title IV of the ACT as the Secretary deems necessary in connection with a war or other military operation or national emergency,” reads the legislation.

“The term ‘national emergency,’” the court noted, “means  a national emergency declared by the President of the United States.”

Biden’s Department of Education argued they could forgive student loans under the HEROES Act in 2021 because President Donald Trump had declared the COVID-19 pandemic an emergency in 2020.

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