Biden believes student loan debt relief belongs to Congress. This is a good thing.

As we have heard time and time again, the senses. Elizabeth Warren and Chuck Schumer want student loan debt wiped out – now. They and other Democrats have been pushing for months to have up to $ 50,000 in federal debt for education eliminated immediately by executive action. Here’s the thing, though: I’m glad President Joe Biden is saying he can’t do it.

Before I pillory, know that I am as frustrated as you – if not more – about this conclusion. When I graduated from college ten years ago, I held a lot of student loans. For example, a loan amount “that is the only reason I am able to buy food, accommodation and my university internship”. Most of my federal loans are about to be paid off – but I’m all for debt relief millions of Americans overwhelmed with debt to try to get an education.

More annoying: Warren and Schumer’s plan is sound, in my opinion. Since last fall, they have argued that the president has the power under the Higher Education Act to instruct the Secretary of Education to write off federal student loan debt. It’s a position that got a boost on February 19, when a group of attorneys general sent a letter to Congress supporting the argument of the senators.

Biden has previously said he would rather sign a debt relief bill that Congress passes – a bill that write off $ 10,000 in federal debt and any interest on these loans – than trying to go solo. During CNN Town Hall Tuesday, the president made it clear that he was not talking about this life.

“I won’t make it,” he said when asked what he would do to make the $ 50,000 loan forgiveness a reality. Instead, he reiterated, community colleges should be free, and “any family earning less than $ 125,000 whose children attend a state university they enroll in should also be free. “.

“I’m ready to write off the $ 10,000 debt, but not the $ 50,000,” Biden said. “Because I don’t think I have the power to do it by signing with a pen.”

Needless to say, people – myself included – were annoyed when this quote started circulating, to put it mildly. Schumer and Warren weren’t going to give up on persuading Biden. “Sea of ​​student debt is holding back 43 million borrowers and disproportionately weighing down black and brown Americans,” Senators said Wednesday in a joint statement. “Canceling $ 50,000 in federal student loan debt will help close the racial wealth gap, benefit the 40% of borrowers who do not have a college degree, and help stimulate the economy.” It’s time to act.

I’ve tried to figure out what’s at stake and where I’m getting off. Because there is a real debate to be had on how much loan debt to write off to help the most people – and who should get this relief.

I can’t bring myself to be mad at a president for insisting that Congress has power it doesn’t have.

On the one hand, more than a third of people who take out loans for school owe less than $ 10,000 to the government. Most would benefit the most from assistance: people who went to school for a semester or two before dropping out, many of whom are also in the lowest income quartile. In addition, “8 million federal student loan borrowers are currently in default, and most of them owe less than $ 10,000,” as NPR reports.

So why is $ 50,000 the cap proposed by Warren and Schumer? It’s not arbitrary or the limit that could be forgiven, a Warren aide told me in an email. Instead, it is the amount that the experts concluded would have the greatest impact for people struggling with the economic anchor holding them back, the aide said.

This amount would also include people with postgraduate studies. While these creditors tend to have higher incomes, graduate students – especially women and people of color – also need help, Warren’s aide argued. Especially since these groups often seek graduate degrees for CV just to make the same amount as their blank, male peers.

But the debate over the amount of debt relief overshadows the bigger question here – whether Biden can act on his own anyway, as Schumer and Warren believe. Lawyers from the Department of Education said in a memo in January before the change of administration, no, that’s a bit of an exaggeration. The White House said the Justice Department will undertake its own review of Biden’s authority.

Now, again, the best outcome in my mind is for the Justice Department to complete their review and conclude that Schumer and Warren are correct. But the past two decades have told a cohesive story, in which Congress continually cedes its powers to the presidency. That we still fight eternal wars under the same law adopted in 2001 is just the most obvious and costly example. The past four years have been particularly irritating as the White House avoided congressional surveillance, took control of spending and otherwise Congress has been steaming.

The only way not to get student debt relief is for Republicans in Congress to block it.

With that in mind, I can’t bring myself to be angry with a president for insisting that Congress has power that it doesn’t have. There should be more cases in which this is the case, not less.

So instead of promoting this fight as a fight between Warren and Schumer on the one hand and Biden on the other, let’s be honest about something: The only way not to get student debt relief is if the Republicans in Congress are blocking it. The main reason Democrats appeal directly to Biden is their belief that a bill cannot pass both houses of Congress. Meanwhile, Biden wants a bill to come to his desk – and despite his inferior goal of debt relief, I doubt he will veto a bill that explicitly turns Warren and Schumer’s plan into law. .

I believe there are times when the good of the country demands creative solutions from the White House. But executive action cannot be the only solution to partisan obstruction in the legislature. I’m glad Biden understands this – although I wish it didn’t.

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