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Trump administration tries to ‘lock up’ Biden over student loan cancellation

By on April 19, 2021 0

The Trump administration’s Department of Education (ED) released a memo earlier this week claiming that student loan debt cancellation through executive action – a potential movement recommended by prominent Democrats but minimized by President-elect Biden – would be illegal.

The Secretary of Education “does not have the statutory authority to cancel, compromise, release or forgive, in aggregate or en masse, the principal balances of student loans and / or to modify in any significant way. reimbursement amounts or the terms thereof, ”the note states. declared, adding at another point: “among other things, we must be aware of the fact that the executive branch does not have the power to dispense on its own. “

The contents of the memo and the timeline suggested the outgoing administration would “try to box in the Biden administration,” Luke Herrine, student loans expert and doctoral student at Yale, told Yahoo Finance. “The fact that this is a memo specially written to Betsy DeVos, who is no longer in office…. I think it’s pretty clear that they were just trying to find a way to say with as much pomp, circumstance, and authority as they can muster that they don’t agree with that interpretation.

US President Donald Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos make ‘U’ symbols with their hands while posing with the Utah Ski Team as they greet members of the NCAA Championship teams at the White House in Washington, U.S., November 17, 2017 (REUTERS / Joshua Roberts)

John Brooks, a law professor at Georgetown University Law Center, noted that while the note itself is not binding, the reading is clearly intended to influence the new Biden administration.

“It is not unreasonable to think that this particular power in the Higher Education Act does not extend so far as to nullify everything for everyone,” Brooks said. “But what I think is unreasonable is… they don’t seem to recognize that the secretary has the ability to use his discretion in the absence of very clear language from Congress.”

The note, written by a politically appointed person and sent internally to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who resigned last week, detailed an interpretation of the Higher Education Act that argued that only Congress has the power to “enact legislation allowing the department to provide a blanket or massive overturn, compromise, a discharge or remission of student loan principal balances, and / or materially altering amounts or terms of repayment.

(Graphic: David Foster)

(Graphic: David Foster)

“You don’t need the Congress”

Prominent Democrats have repeatedly called Biden take executive action and unilaterally write off up to $ 50,000 in student loan debt for the approximately 43 million Americans who collectively owe more than $ 1.6 trillion in student loans.

“President Biden can write off this debt – can write off $ 50,000 in [student] debt – the first day he becomes president, ”Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY) mentionned in December. “You don’t need Congress. All you need is a stroke of a pencil. “

The basic legal argument, as detailed by the Legal Services Center at Harvard Law School to Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, is that the Secretary of Education has the power “to cancel existing student loan debt under a separate statutory authority – the power to amend existing loans found in 20 USC § 1082 (a) (4). “

(Graphic: David Foster / Yahoo <a class=Finance)” src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/bu5yDiMMujk7MmICV.f7UQ–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTk2MA–/https://s.yimg.com/os/creatr-uploaded-images/2021-01/47111c50-590e-11eb-b3af-3f3feeaadcab”/>

(Graphic: David Foster / Yahoo Finance)

Toby Merill, a lawyer at the Legal Services Center at Harvard, argued that the next Secretary of Education “has the capacity and legal obligation to write off the debts of the defrauded for-profit students at this time” and hopes the Biden administration will work to pass it “quickly so that these students finally have the justice they deserve. has been denied for so long. “

Either way, executive action would require executive support: Amid pressure to unilaterally cancel debt upon taking office, President-elect Biden told reporters: “I think it’s quite debatable. I’m not sure of it. I probably wouldn’t do that.

Aarthi is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @aarthiswami.

If you would like to share your story on how you struggle or paid your students, email her at [email protected]

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