Biden's bailout vs the rule of law

As a presidential candidate, Joe Biden promised to cancel $10,000 in student debt per borrower. He called this a “critical step” to “help make it easier for working people to

make ends meet.” But after winning office, Biden found it difficult to get this passed into law, given his party’s razor-thin majority in the Senate. Congress on several occasions

considered including $10,000 in debt relief in multiple pieces of COVID-19 legislation and ultimately chose not to do so. It seemed his hands were tied. Even most

Democrats, including then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), had long acknowledged that student debt cancellation couldn’t be done without passing a law. Actions to “cancel”

student debt actually involve spending taxpayer money or requiring that taxpayers absorb the reallocated debts, and Congress has the power of the purse per the Constitution.

Then, a few radicals on the Democratic Party’s left flank, namely Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT), reminded Biden of the precedent his old boss, Barack

Obama, had set. Also stymied by an unhelpful Congress, Obama famously turned to “pen and phone” governance on everything from immigration reform to public school bathrooms,

sidestepping the first branch and the Constitution in favor of unilateral executive action. Progressives lobbied Biden to do the same, making the specious and legally radical

argument that the president had the authority to “cancel” student debt unilaterally with simply an executive order.