After offering struggling millennials a way to avoid being crushed by student loan debts, President Joe Biden no doubt imagined he would be greeted by grateful throngs who tossed rose petals in his path as though he were an emperor in ancient Rome. Instead, the move has diminished his standing among the electorate.
A Trafalgar Group poll conducted after Mr. Biden announced his bailout found just under half of the likely voters surveyed – 49% – said they’d be “much less likely” to vote for a candidate who spoke favorably about the student loan forgiveness package. This provides a tremendous opportunity for those opposed to the president’s plans for America to make a compelling case he isn’t standing up for the interests of hard-working Americans who play by the rules. Instead, he’s trying to buy the votes of whiny youngsters who expect someone to fix the mess they got into all by themselves. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like the opposition is doing much to press its advantage.
Mr. Biden’s bailout could cost taxpayers as much as $1 trillion, wiping out any supposed savings from the Inflation Reduction Act. Beltway insiders don’t see a way to stop this and are throwing up their hands. As usual, they’re wrong. It can be stopped, just not in Washington.
The Supreme Court’s recently codified Major Questions Doctrine suggests a bailout of the size and scope proposed by the president must be approved by Congress. That’s something the courts could decide if an entity with the standing to sue can be found and persuaded to challenge Mr. Biden’s student loan bailout.
In a piece recently published in the Journal of the National Association of Administrative Law Judiciary, Harvard University’s Colin Mark wrote, “Student loan servicers could sue to prevent the Department of Education from forgiving student loans. Servicers could demonstrate an injury in fact, fairly traceable to the Department’s forgiveness of student loans, and redressable by equitable relief under § 702 of the APA.”
Enter Missouri and Oklahoma, conservative states with conservative governors and conservative majorities in their legislatures that oversee boards that service student loans. The Higher Education Loan Authority of the State of Missouri or MOHELA, and the Oklahoma Student Loan Authority, also known as OSLA, are instrumentalities of their respective states, governed by boards appointed by their governors whose members are subject to for-cause removal. In short, they have the standing to sue.
Why would they? The Biden plan could prove very costly to them. It would discharge a substantial number of the loans they service, depriving them of revenue from all 50 states used to fund scholarships for residents of Missouri and Oklahoma. It could also lead to significant tuition increases if those who lead the cartel that sets the price of higher education decide this bailout is the first step in reducing the cost of college by making it permissible for people to not pay back the monies they borrowed. That makes fighting it central to the college-affordability mission of these entities.
Bringing a suit could be risky. American Commitment’s Phil Kerpen, a major booster of the lawsuit strategy, concedes the members of the two boards are rightly concerned they might be frozen out of the next round of loan servicing contracts awarded by the U.S. Department of Education, which begins even before the end of 2023 when the current contracts expire if they challenge the Biden’s plan for debt forgiveness.
If so, it’s a risk worth taking. The idea you are supposed to pay back what you borrow – and that you shouldn’t borrow more than you can pay back – is an intrinsic part of who we are as a nation. It is better for all of us if Governors Mike Parson of Missouri and Kevin Stitt of Oklahoma suggest to their appointees on these loan-serving boards that they take a firm stand for what is right, no matter the cost.
This should not be a reach. With 20 of their GOP gubernatorial colleagues, Mr. Parson and Mr. Stitt co-signed a letter to the president released this month expressing disagreement with his plan. If they’ve gone that far, they can go farther by directing or persuading their appointees on the boards they oversee to file suit. Perhaps it would get them on the list of the people talked about for a spot on the next national GOP ticket.