by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
If Biden wants to see a real threat to democracy, he need only look in the mirror. That’s because it is the unlawful executive actions by recent presidents, including his own student loan amnesty announced last week, that represent the real threat to the constitutional order and the rule of law.
Article I of the Constitution, which was debated and signed in the building from which Biden will speak tonight, vests all legislative powers of the federal government in Congress, not in the executive branch. If a president of either party wants to use the power of the federal government to wipe away the debt of millions of borrowers, just to pick an issue at random, that president must be able to point to a specific act of Congress that gave him or her that power. Moreover, Article IV specifically gives Congress the “power to dispose of and make all needful rules and regulations” respecting government property, such as student debts.
Biden’s defenders disingenuously claim that the Higher Education Relief Opportunities for Students Act of 2003 gives him the power to cancel permanently the student debt of all borrowers affected by a declared national emergency. But that legislation was passed to provide relief to borrowers who missed work after being called to military service during a national emergency.
This is very similar to former President Donald Trump’s attempt to build a wall on the southern border by redirecting funds that Congress had allocated to other programs after he declared a national emergency at the U.S.-Mexico boundary.
Whatever powers Congress has delegated to the president in cases of national emergency — and Congress has delegated far too much power to the presidency during emergencies — both Trump’s wall and Biden’s loan amnesty vastly overstepped their legitimate executive powers.