Burr, Foxx Demand Clarity on Biden’s Statutory Authority on Student Loan Repayment Freeze, Forgiveness

Members: It is clear that your agency does not care about the limits of its executive authority or the perilous economic impact of its actions.

June 15, 2022

Today, Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP), and Representative Virginia Foxx (NC-05), Ranking Member of the House Committee on Education and Labor, sent a letter to U.S. Department of Education Secretary Miguel Cardona demanding clarity on the Department’s statutory authority for its recent and proposed executive actions on student loans. 

In their letter, the Members question the Department’s legal authority to cancel massive amounts of student loans and request a detailed explanation of the authorities used to extend student loan repayment freezes. This letter follows multiple attempts by the Members to request information and briefings from the Department to ensure it is following the rule of law.

“Today we award you an ‘F’ due to your dismissive failure to ensure student loans are administered and payments are collected in accordance with the law,” the Members write. 

“The Department continues to pretend student loans will eventually go back into repayment when talking to Congress while simultaneously telling the country the repayment pause will remain until a decision is made on broad student loan forgiveness. Thankfully, as time passes, more and more of the American public is realizing that the administration does not have the authority to enact these radical policies by executive fiat. Most recently, the former General Counsel for the Department of Education during the Obama administration stated, ‘If the issue is litigated, the more persuasive analyses tend to support the conclusion that the Executive Branch likely does not have the unilateral authority to engage in mass student debt cancellation.’ Therefore, it is no surprise that both Speaker Pelosi and President Biden have outright rejected or admitted skepticism that this authority exists. Even the liberal New York Times Editorial Board wrote that ‘[s]uch a move is legally dubious, economically unsound, politically fraught and educationally problematic.’

“It is clear, however, that your agency does not care about the limits of its executive authority or the perilous economic impact of its actions. You proudly announce that the Department has forgiven at least $25 billion in student loan debt. This does not include the $83 billion cost to taxpayers for your continual extensions of the repayment pause or the untold hundreds of billions forgiven through your unlawful ’waivers.’ To achieve this, the Department has taken 14 legally dubious actions—all at taxpayer expense.

“Ignoring our questions is your Department’s modus operandi. Yet, Congressional oversight is not an option. It is there to ensure that you and your Department are accountable to the American people.”

To read the full letter, click here.