Press Release

PRESS RELEASE: Five Former U.S. Secretaries of Education Join DFI’s Fight to Protect Taxpayers, Stop Biden’s Illegal Student Loan Cancellation Scheme

WASHINGTON—Five former U.S. secretaries of education—Betsy DeVos, Margaret Spellings, Rod Paige, Lamar Alexander, and William Bennett—joined with the Defense of Freedom Institute for Policy Studies (DFI) to fight to protect taxpayers and end the Biden administration’s illegal student loan cancellation scheme in a case before the U.S. Supreme Court.

In an amicus brief filed today in two cases consolidated by the Court, Nebraska v. Biden and Department of Education v. Brown, the Secretaries and DFI argue the Biden administration lacks the constitutional and statutory authority to cancel more than $400 billion in student loan debt.  

The brief states, “As matter of first principle, the Executive Branch does not have general lawmaking or dispensary authority and cannot legislate a nationwide policy without clear authorization from Congress…Because the Debt Cancellation Plan purports to take action that has not been clearly authorized by Congress, it violates the separation of powers doctrine and is unconstitutional.”

The brief argues both the “Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act” (HEROES Act) of 2003 and the “Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act” (CARES Act) of 2020 only provide legal authority to “pause” student loan debt collection, not enact blanket loan forgiveness. In addition, the U.S. Department of Education is required by law to collect federally held student loans unless specifically instructed otherwise by Congress.

Secretary DeVos:
“The reverse Robin Hood this Administration is attempting to buy off young voters is not only immoral but also illegal. There’s little mystery as to what happened here. In 2020, the top lawyers at Education, Justice and the White House found no authority to cancel student loans. Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi agreed with that conclusion. Come 2022, miraculously, the Biden Administration found a new interpretation of the law just at the moment when they needed to improve their political standing. The Supreme Court must put a stop to this illegal spending spree and re-affirm Congress’ role as the director of student loan policy.”

Secretary Spellings:
“Each of us knows that having overseen these laws, neither the Secretary of Education nor the President of the United States has the authority to forgive student loan debt en masse. We also know that the growing cost of higher education is and has been a real challenge for American families. This plan benefits one group of Americans and fails to recognize both those who paid their debts and those who forwent college because they felt they couldn’t afford it. It sends the wrong message to taxpayers, higher education institutions, and students.”

Secretary Paige:
“When we worked with Congress to pass the HEROES Act, I never could have imagined it would be contorted in this way by a future administration. The law was meant to support active-duty military and members of the national guard who were suffering economic hardship as a result of war—not to forgive the student loan debt of doctors and lawyers. Congress voted unanimously for the HEROES Act because it was the right thing to do.  Fast forward 20 years and Congress has had ample opportunity to pass a student loan forgiveness bill, and they have not done so. Without Congressional authorization, the President’s student loan forgiveness scheme cannot stand.”

Secretary Alexander:
“I have long explained the importance of a carefully limited role for the U.S. Secretary of Education. Much as the secretary isn’t the chairman of the national school board, he or she also isn’t the chairman of a national bank. As a Senator I voted for the HEROES Act, and I saw no Congressional intent for that law to authorize mass loan cancellation. As Chairman of the Senate education committee during the pandemic and passage of two COVID supplementals, I saw no Congressional intent for mass loan cancellation. For this scheme to stand, Congress must have authorized it and appropriated funds, and Congress has simply never done so.”

Secretary Bennett:
“The Constitution is clear: Congress holds the purse strings.  The president cannot wave a magic wand to transfer billions of dollars in student loan debt from those who took out loans to hardworking taxpayers who didn’t. Biden’s decision to forgive loans of those with six-figure incomes disproportionately impacts low-income workers and those who never attended college. It’s wrong, it’s illegal and it needs to be stopped.”

Added DFI President and Co-founder Bob Eitel, “For an administration enamored with equity, its student loan cancellation scheme couldn’t be more inequitable. Instead of fixing the problems of skyrocketing tuition and student debt, the President has chosen, illegally, to forgive student loans for borrowers with six-figure incomes. Neither the President nor the Secretary of Education has the legal authority to cancel student loans on a blanket or mass basis. Left to stand, this policy will create a permanent constituency agitating for continued loan cancellations. That is no doubt part of the administration’s vote-buying plan.”

In addition to the illegality of the scheme, there is growing evidence the Biden administration has also misled the public on the costs of loan cancellation. Just last week, KPMG provided the results of its latest audit of the U.S. Department of Education, and, for the first time in 20 years, the Department did not receive a “clean” audit of its annual financial statements.  As KPMG wrote in its report, the Department was “unable to provide adequate evidential matter to support certain key assumptions” used to calculate the cost of Biden’s student debt cancellation plan.

To read the full brief in Nebraska v. Biden, click here.