Republicans accuse Biden administration of 'abuse' for forgiving student loans

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The Department of Education's rules will help more than 550,000 people.

President Joe Biden's administration took action Wednesday to expand a student loan forgiveness program to help hundreds of thousands of public servants. Congressional Republicans quickly denounced it as an "abuse" of his authority.

"Today's announcement makes it clear," complained Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), the top Republican on the House Education and Labor Committee. "Democrats are happy to allow the Biden administration to be judge, jury, and executioner if it pleases their progressive base. Which is ironic given the ridicule and shaming of the previous administration for simply following the disastrous law Democrats unilaterally created."

She was referring to an announcement by Education Secretary Miguel Cardona that his department would temporarily change the requirements under the 2007 Public Service Loan Forgiveness program to cover "past payments made on loans that would otherwise not qualify." The changes will allow those who work full-time serving the public through a government or nonprofit job to have their student loans forgiven — benefiting an estimated 550,000 people.

"Borrowers who devote a decade of their lives to public service should be able to rely on the promise of Public Service Loan Forgiveness. The system has not delivered on that promise to date, but that is about to change for many borrowers who have served their communities and their country," Cardona said in a statement. "Teachers, nurses, first responders, servicemembers, and so many public service workers have had our back especially amid the challenges of the pandemic."

The Education Department was able to make the temporary change due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic national emergency, deeming the move "critical" as "frontline sectors like teaching and healthcare are already seeing burnout and employee shortages."

Foxx, who said she does not believe taxpayers who do not have college degrees should have to pay for others to get one, called the move "Biden’s latest abuse of executive authority" and "another step towards blanket student loan forgiveness and the Democrats are allowing it to happen in the dark because their caucus is in disarray and incapable of passing anything in the light of day.”

In a joint letter with Rep. Greg Murphy (R-NC), she called Public Service Loan Forgiveness "a magnet for confusion and mismanagement from day one."

"We need to be honest about what this really is: an abuse of 'executive authority' to override legislated program requirements to appease progressive advocates," they charged. "In fact, without the permanent pandemic narrative the Biden administration so desperately clings to, you would have no such authority take this action, as you note in the summary of changes to the PSLF program as a part of the negotiated rulemaking process."

But two years ago, Foxx voted against a bill to stop then-President Donald Trump from using similar "emergency" powers to raid funds appropriated for military families to pay for his border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The latest move comes days after a CBS News report noted that under existing rules, 98% of those who applied for student loan relief under the program were deemed ineligible. Just 124 of the roughly 180,000 active duty service members with student loans were able to take advantage of the program.

A March poll suggests that the public is with Biden on this issue. 66% of American adults said student loans should be forgiven for all (27%) or needy (39%) debtors.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.