The Senate is Right to Reject Biden’s Unfair Student Loan Bailout for the Rich | Opinion

Well, that’s embarrassing. One of President Biden’s signature policy items, his so-called student debt “cancellation,” just got starkly repudiated by the Senate—which his own party narrowly controls.

On Wednesday, the Senate approved a Congressional Resolution Act that would rescind Biden’s unilateral attempt to “cancel”—a.k.a. pass on to taxpayers—$10,000 to $20,000 per student loan borrower in households earning up to $250,000 annually. Two Democratic senators, Sens. Joe Manchin and Jon Tester, broke with Biden and helped Republican pass this resolution, as did one Democratic-leaning independent, Senator Kyrsten Sinema.

This comes after the GOP-controlled House, in a less surprising development, passed the resolution last week. It now heads to President Biden’s desk, where it will almost surely be vetoed. As a result, this move is largely symbolic. But the fact that even a branch of government controlled by his own party voted to revoke Biden’s student loan bailout is nonetheless a revealing sign of just how deeply flawed the policy is.

To start, it’s flagrantly unconstitutional. Congress, not the president, has the “power of the purse,” the constitutional authority to spend taxpayer money. Biden tried to get Congress to pass a student loan bailout and it refused to do so—but he didn’t take no for an answer.

The President’s attempt at “cancellation” then tried to work-around Congress and spend an astounding $500 billion in taxpayer money through executive fiat. It did so by twisting and distorting an old statute, passed after 9/11, that almost no one, not even Nancy Pelosi, ever thought gave the executive branch the power to issue a broad student debt bailout without Congress.

The blatant unlawfulness of Biden’s approach is why its been tied up in court and not actually taken effect—and why it looks doomed to ultimately be struck down by the Supreme Court.

So it’s only right that Congress stepped up and repudiated Biden’s policy, as it inherently infringed upon the legislative branch’s constitutional authority. Even if you support the underlying goal of transferring student debt to taxpayers, this isn’t the way to do it if you actually care about the rule of law and the Constitution our officials swear an oath to uphold.

Student loan borrowers stage a Sit-In on Capitol Hill at the office of U.S. Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to urge him to stop trying to block student debt cancellation on May 09, 2023 in Washington, DC.
Jemal Countess/Getty Images

But it’s also an absolute disaster of a policy on the underlying merits. For one, it does nothing to address the underlying problem, which is out-of-control costs of college. As a result, we’d be right back at this exact level of student debt by 2028. It’s a bandaid on a bullet hole, not a real solution (and a pretty damn expensive bandaid at that!).

And like any form of broad student debt relief, Biden’s bailout primarily helps the relatively affluent and well-off. Yes, unlike the versions of student debt “cancellation” advocated by others in his party like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, Biden’s plan does include income caps. But even under these caps, working-class taxpayers would still be forced to cover the debt of people in households making $249,999 a year.

Moreover, by definition, this relief effort only helps people who went college. While there are always individual exceptions, that’s not exactly the slice of society that’s typically struggling right now. (Or ever).

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As a result, the Wharton School of Business estimates that even with the income caps, the vast majority of the plan’s financial benefits—up to 73 percent—will go to the top 60 percent of income earners—the middle and upper-middle class. Only a relatively paltry 27 percent of the benefits will go to the bottom 40 percent of income earners, who are the actual poor and working class.

How exactly is that “progressive” in any meaningful sense of the word?

The President’s student debt bailout runs roughshod over the Constitution, does nothing to solve the problem of high tuition costs, and costs working taxpayers hugely while primarily benefitting relatively affluent Americans. So it’s heartening to see a bipartisan stand in the Senate against this illegal and unfair plan.

The only shame is that Congress couldn’t cobble together a veto-proof majority and consign this policy to the dustbin of history where it truly belongs.

Brad Polumbo (@Brad_Polumbo) is an independent journalist, a Robert Novak journalism fellow, and co-founder of BASEDPolitics.

The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own.