Change in reconciliation rules reduces pressure on Biden to forgive student debt
Earlier this month, the Senate parliamentarian, an unelected official who generally remains under the radar of public concerns, issued a ruling that will open the door for Democrats to pass legislation that otherwise would have been impossible with their slim Senate majority. . Previously, Senate leaders had been lobby at President BidenJoe Biden Fires, smoke, floods, droughts, storms, heat: America needs a climate resilience strategy Senator Susan Collins pushes corporate tax rate by 28%, says jobs will be lost The advisor Biden Economic Defines Infrastructure Plan as a Necessary Investment READ MORE to forgive student loans through executive action, with the rationale that Republicans would block any effort to do so through legislation. With the new door open to Democrats, this case falls flat. The power to cancel student debt is now entirely in the hands of Senate Democrats. This will test support for the effort of Democratic lawmakers.
Reconciliation bills, which can be used multiple times in a budget year, allow lawmakers to legislate by a simple majority (51 votes), rather than a supermajority (60 votes). Not all political efforts can be achieved through reconciliation. For example, the parliamentarian recently rejected the attempt to pass a federal minimum wage of $ 15 through the stimulus bill which was passed through reconciliation without any Republican support. But the policies around federal spending, revenues and debt limits are fair. This filibuster workaround has been exploited more frequently in recent years because a divided Congress left lawmakers looking for ways to get things done without the supermajority that would be needed to overcome filibuster and adopt legislation.
All of this means Democrats now have the ability to pass student loan cancellation legislation without any Republicans backing. Of course, that would also require unanimous agreement within their party, which is apparently implied by the demands for action from the executive, but which will likely be lacking when the rubber hits the road and lawmakers are required to assume. responsibility for politics.
As I wrote, President Biden’s public comments have led me to believe that he dislikes any form of blanket loan cancellation, even the modest $ 10,000 proposal in his presidential campaign. He probably included this cause in his campaign because it would have alienated the more liberal members of his party if he had not. The pressure the president might have felt before to make this happen is now extinguished. If the left-pushed student loan cancellation proposals are, in fact, the easy fix suggested by Democratic leaders, Democratic policymakers will take the opportunity to pass it themselves. However, moderate Democrats may have used this issue as a way to show superficial solidarity with the far left and would hesitate to support it through legislation.
If Biden favors loan cancellation, it wouldn’t make sense to use executive action to get it done. If the student loan cancellation cannot pass with Democrats in Congress, resorting to executive action would unnecessarily alienate moderate lawmakers with whom Biden has explicitly promised to cooperate. Resorting to executive action might discourage them from supporting larger efforts later in his presidency. It doesn’t seem worth it.
The cancellation of student loans has many staunch and staunch supporters on the left and is surprisingly popular among voters, even among those with a college degree. But politicians on both sides of the aisle have expressed concern about the fairness and unintended consequences of such a policy. Now that the door for new reconciliation bills is open, time will tell if strong support really exists among Democratic lawmakers to make this once-far-left chimera policy a political reality. Either way, President Biden is off the hook.
Beth Akers, Ph.D., is a resident at the American Enterprise Institute and a former economist with the Council of Economic Advisers under the George W. Bush administration. She is the author of the forthcoming book, “Making College Pay: An Economist Explains How to Make a Smart Bet on Higher Education”. Follow her on Twitter @DrBethAkers.