- The Wall Street Journal obtained a legal analysis from a former Obama lawyer on student debt relief.
- The analysis said massive student loan forgiveness has the potential to be overturned in court.
- Debate over broad loan forgiveness under the Higher Education Act has continued.
As President Joe Biden moves closer to canceling student debt, a newly released analysis questions how he might hold up in court.
On Wednesday, a Wall Street Journal exclusive found that Charlie Rose, a top lawyer for former President Barack Obama’s Department of Education, isn’t confident in the legality of broad student loan forgiveness. According to a legal analysis obtained by the Journal, Rose said writing off each borrower’s student debt without targeting relief to each borrower’s individual needs could be struck down in court and leave the administration at risk of being sued by loan companies. student.
“If the issue is litigated, the most persuasive analyzes tend to support the conclusion that the Executive Branch probably does not have the unilateral authority to engage in massive cancellation of student debt,” Rose wrote.
The Journal said that Rose confirmed to the publication that the analysis was intended for a private client, not for public release.
The legal debate surrounding broad student loan forgiveness is ongoing. Last April, Biden asked the Department of Education to prepare a memorandum examining his legal authority to write off student debt in general. While the memo’s findings have yet to be made public, Debt Collective, the nation’s first debtors’ union, obtained the redacted memo through the Freedom of Information Act in October, revealing that Biden is aware of what kind legality has to act on students. she owes but is not making it known publicly.
Still, it seems likely that the president will write off student debt across the board. Biden said in a speech last week that a decision on loan forgiveness will be made “in a couple of weeks” and that the relief will likely be close to his $10,000 campaign promise of forgiveness, subject to income limits. White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters this week that relief is being considered for those making less than $125,000 a year.
While Democrats have argued that Biden has the authority under the Higher Education Act to forgive student debt through executive action, many Republican lawmakers have said that authority does not exist. Five Republican lawmakers recently introduced a bill to resume student loan payments and prevent Biden from writing off student debt as part of pandemic relief.
“As Americans continue to return to the workforce more than two years into the pandemic, it is time for borrowers to resume paying student debt obligations,” Senator John Thune said in a statement.
Republicans have frequently criticized the notion of a broad pardon, saying it will cost taxpayers and the economy, with some arguing that Biden is only considering the relief to win votes in the midterm elections. But many Democrats have long been saying that the authority to cancel student debt exists and that Biden just needs to sign an executive action.
Legal experts at the Harvard Law School Legal Services Center prepared an analysis for Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren in 2020 that found her proposal to write off $50,000 in student debt for each federal borrower “requires a legal and permissible use of the authority that Congress has conferred on the Ministry of Education, which is provided for and permitted in the budgetary and accounting treatment of federal student loan programs.”