A two-prong attack on King Biden's student debt order
Let me state at the outset what this article is not about. It is not a detailed analysis of how and why President Biden's executive order forgiving billions in student debt by a stroke of his pen is likely illegal. Others have dissected that well.
It is also not a value judgment about whether forgiving hundreds of billions in student debt is "fair" or "good." That's above my pay grade and my moral standing.
And it is also not a critique of the proclaimed merits — sketchy as they seem to be at first blush — meaning whether King Biden's Order will help the economy and keep inflation in check.
Biden announces his student debt order, August 24, 2022.
Instead, it is about what a principled conservative might now do about it. In short, there are two things — one politically contrarian and the other a traditional legal attack.
- Introduce a Bill Making King Biden's Order Legal:
First, Mitch McConnell should introduce a bill in Congress that mimics President Biden's executive order. Say what?
Yep, you read that right: McConnell should strategically co-sponsor a bill making Biden's order actual law. Doing so will thoroughly expose not just the president, but his party.
To explain why, here is the sort of statement McConnell should issue when introducing his bill:
However noble President Biden mistakenly thinks his proposed action is — and no matter how much he blatantly panders to voters in hopes of literally buying their votes for the midterm elections — President Biden's action is illegal. He is not a king.
Even if we put aside that his attempted action will likely spur — not quell — inflation. And even if we put aside that it is unfair to the poorest of Americans who did not attend college, yet will now be asked to pay for those who did. And even if we put aside that it is unfair to the millions of college graduates who worked hard and honored their obligations to pay off their college debts. And even if we put aside that it does nothing to address the underlying problem that college costs too much.
So even if we can put all that aside, as a threshold matter the president simply lacks authority to act unilaterally. He is not a king.
But if his idea is good — and indeed welcomed by our democracy — there is a simple solution: let Congress pass a bill that the president can then sign into law, same as all other laws.
That would actually be legal, not to mention proper and transparent.
In that spirit, I will do what the president should have done: introduce a bill in Congress that will forgive all the student debt the president now proposes.
Remember, both chambers of Congress are controlled by his party — the Democrats — so getting the bill out of committee and into Congress for a vote should be easy. If not, it means his own party is against his own idea. If not, it means Democrats want to take "democracy" out of their own party's name. If not, it means they are scared to expose the truth: namely, a majority of the American people and their elected representatives do NOT support the president's (illegal) action. How telling and ironic.
So, Mr. President, if your idea is so good, you should welcome your own party making it law. What do you fear? Lean in and embrace your own idea and make it lawful — you know, the will of the people you claim to represent. You know, actual democracy, not a wannabe king trying to do an end run around democracy.
What are you waiting for or afraid of?
And to my Democrat member colleagues, I expect that many of you will line up with me to co-sponsor your leader's idea. Same as I say to the president, what do you have to fear? You control Congress, so if it's a good idea — same as the many COVID spending bills you have passed without Republican support — you can and should get it done.
If the Democrats do not sabotage this — meaning they have the courage to simply bring the bill to the floor for a vote — I will vote against the bill I am introducing and co-sponsoring.
To be clear, this is not a political stunt. Instead, it only exposes one — namely, that the president is trying to illegally act as a king, apparently fearful of his own party. Again, if the president's idea is sound, right, fair, and noble as he says, then make it law, something he would only need the support of his own party to achieve. In short, they should embrace democracy and the democratic process.
If he — or the Democrat party — can't or won't do so, and are so fearful to even try, what does it say about the idea, democracy, and their own party?
I genuinely respect the democratic process, which here means if the president's idea passes and becomes law, I will respect and embrace it, seeking that it be applied fairly and uniformly, same as all laws.
- File a Federal Lawsuit Attacking King Biden's Order
Concurrently, Senator McConnell — or some other members — should file a federal lawsuit attacking the president's action as illegal. Perhaps the faces of the suit are "average" Americans affected by the order, like blue-collar non–college graduates, college graduates who already paid off their loans, and even some people whose debts would be forgiven but object on principled grounds.
They should file the suit on an emergency basis and seek declaratory relief. They should file it — if permissible — not in the D.C. Circuit, but in a red state in a red circuit, like perhaps Wyoming, Texas, or even McConnell's home state of Kentucky. Remember, a district court's injunction throwing out the president's executive order should apply nationally and would stand unless and until a higher court reverses it.
Together, this one-two punch — the first one political and the second one legal — is the best avenue to expose and defeat King Biden's edict.
Neither a card-carrying Democrat nor Republican, but instead someone who believes in the rule of law and democracy, William Choslovsky is a Harvard Law School graduate, former federal judicial clerk, and now a lawyer in Chicago.
corrected trillions to billions in the first paragraph