© Alex Wong/Getty ImagesU.S. President Joe Biden, joined by Education Secretary Miguel Cardona. Alex Wong/Getty Images Former Rep. George Miller, one of the architects of the HEROES Act of 2003, wrote an opinion piece supporting Biden's student-debt relief. He argued that it "could hardly be clearer" that the HEROES Act permits broad loan forgiveness. He pushed back on the former GOP lawmakers who opposed the debt relief's legality.
One of the architects of the law President Joe Biden is using to cancel student debt once again wants you to know that he thinks loan forgiveness is legal.
Former Democratic Rep. George Miller helped construct the HEROES Act of 2003, which gives the Education Secretary the ability to waive or modify student-loan balances in connection with a national emergency. Miller wrote in a Wednesday opinion piece in The Washington Post that Biden's loan forgiveness falls exactly within what the law permits.
In November, Miller wrote an amicus curiae brief to the Supreme Court explaining his position as to why Biden's debt relief is legal, and while former Republican lawmakers also wrote a brief on why they oppose Biden's usage of the HEROES Act, Miller said that "they certainly don't speak for every member of Congress who voted for the law undergirding Biden's plan."
"That language could hardly be clearer," Miller wrote.
"'Statutory or regulatory provision[s]' regarding federal student-loan programs include the rules or regulations that would ordinarily require borrowers to pay their loan balances," he continued. "By giving officials the authority to 'waive' those requirements in connection with a national emergency, Congress empowered officials to say that those requirements no longer apply — that borrowers no longer need to pay off the debt they owe."
Republican lawmakers and the conservative groups who have filed briefs opposing Biden's relief argued that the president cannot continue relying on COVID-19 to enact relief, and that any broad loan forgiveness should require Congressional approval. But even after Biden declared that the national emergency declaration will be ending in May, a White House official previously told Insider that the HEROES Act can still be used for student-debt cancellation because the relief is intended to help borrowers continue to recover from the financial impacts of the pandemic, which can be long-lasting.
Miller said that while experts might disagree on what relief is needed to recover from a national emergency, "it's the exact type of assessment that the Heroes Act empowers the education secretary to make."
"Sure, Congress could have gone farther by requiring the Education Department to relieve student debt," Miller said.
"But instead, we gave education officials the flexibility to decide what waivers or modifications would best protect borrowers who were affected by national emergencies," he added. "Instead of constraining the education secretary's options, as my former colleagues argue, we deliberately kept those options open."
Miller is among the many advocates, legal experts, and Democratic lawmakers who have voiced support for the administration's use of the HEROES Act. Still, conservative groups flooded the Supreme Court docket to oppose the relief, and some Republican lawmakers have introduced legislation over the past few weeks to block Biden from canceling any student debt in connection with a national emergency.
The former GOP lawmakers Miller referenced wrote in their brief, for example, that "Congress did not, and surely could not, have ever expected the Act to be misused and distorted by the Department in the policy now before this Court."
Biden's administration has continued to express confidence in its authority — and now it's up to the Supreme Court to weigh the question of legality during oral arguments for the two cases that have blocked Biden's relief on February 28.
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said last month that "student loan borrowers from all walks of life suffered profound financial harms during the pandemic and their continued recovery and successful repayment hinges on the Biden Administration's student debt relief plan. We will continue to defend our legal authority to provide the debt relief working and middle-class families clearly need and deserve."