The White House was confronted Thursday over the appearance that the Biden administration has exploited the COVID-19 pandemic to enact its political agenda.
What is the background?
As part of President Joe Biden's plan to unilaterally forgive student loan debt, the Biden administration disclosed what it believes is the legal authority to take such action.
That authority, according to a five-page legal memorandum from the Education Department, stems from a post-9/11 law known as the HEROES Act of 2003.
The memorandum claims the nearly two-decade-old law gives the Biden administration "broad authority to grant relief from student loan requirements during specific periods (a war, other military operation, or national emergency, such as the present COVID-19 pandemic) and for specific purposes (including to address the financial harms of such a war, other military operation, or emergency)."
Thus Biden is exploiting the supposed national emergency stemming from the pandemic as the legal justification for sweeping debt forgiveness.
What happened Thursday?
At the White House press briefing, Fox News reporter Jacqui Heinrich exposed a double standard apparently being used by the Biden administration, pointing out that administration officials have argued in court that the pandemic is over.
"I want to ask about the legal basis for canceling student debt," Heinrich began. "The HEROES Act hinges on student debt cancellation being tied to the pandemic and that being a national emergency. But the administration argued in court that the pandemic is over at the southern border to lift Title 42. It’s so over that the government is going to stop buying vaccines in the fall and shift to the private sector.
"So, how is this a national emergency? How is COVID a national emergency when it comes to student debt?" she asked.
Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre claimed the administration is justified in now arguing the pandemic remains a national emergency because when the moratorium on student loan payments ends months from now, people will "suffer."
"There's gonna be some folks who are going to have a hard time," Jean-Pierre argued.
"Because of the economy?" Heinrich fired back.
Jean-Pierre responded, "Because they're just in a different bracket. They've probably had a hard time before."
08/25/22: Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierreyoutu.be
Heinrich then cornered Jean-Pierre over another narrative the Biden administration pushes, namely the economy is booming and in great shape because of Biden.
Thus, if the economy is great, "Why are those appropriate conditions to forgive student debt?" Heinrich asked.
In response, Jean-Pierre argued that "both can be true. It's not one or the other."
The White House has not yet said how much Biden's plan will cost taxpayers or how it will be financed. The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget estimates the plan will cost roughly $500 billion.