Confused or lying? Biden claims he got student loan forgiveness 'passed by a vote or two'

Here we go again playing a game which is becoming a defining feature of the Biden presidency: Is Biden lying or is he just confused? Critics ripped into Joe Biden after the president falsely claimed that his student loan payout plan passed Congress.

During a town hall sponsored by NowThis News on Sunday, Biden flubbed a comment about his student loan relief plan, which was executed through executive action and was not passed through Congress.

"You’re probably aware I just signed a law that’s being challenged by my Republican colleagues—the same people who got PPP loans—during the, up to, in some cases up to five, six hundred thousand dollars. They have no problem with that—the individuals in Congress that got those," Biden said. 

He then reiterated the details of his plan, which allow for up to $20,000 in loan forgiveness for Pell grant recipients, and up to $10,000 for all other college graduates. 

"It’s passed, I got it passed by a vote or two, and it’s in effect," Biden incorrectly claimed. 

So, again, is Biden confused or is he just outright lying to make it sound like this went through Congress when it most certainly did not? Among the reactions to this new gaffe, there’s agreement it has to be one or the other.

Critics on social media, including a number of journalists, quickly made note of Biden’s comment, with some wondering why fact-checkers weren’t weighing in on the president’s falsehood, and others wondering if Biden was even aware that what he said was wrong. 

"President Biden claims his student loan executive order is a law that was passed by Congress and signed by him," columnist Eddie Zipperer said. "If this is a lie, it's beyond the pale. If Biden thinks this is true, then he has no clue what's happening around him."

Washington Post columnist Megan McArdle made a similar observation, noting that Biden was either intentionally misrepresenting his student loan payout plan in "Trumpian fashion," or he legitimately could not distinguish between a bill and an executive order. 

"Having willfully violated his oath of office by issuing an executive order he knows is flatly illegal—and having then tried to dodge review by the courts by amending it on the fly —Biden is now lying about it having gone through Congress," National Review writer Charles C. W. Cooke tweeted. 

Some on Twitter defended the president, claiming that the clip of Biden was taken out of context. 

Biden's plan calls for the federal government to cancel $10,000 in student loan debt – $20,000 for Pell grant recipients – for borrowers who earn up to $125,000 a year or married couples who make up to $250,000. The Congressional Budget Office has said the program will cost about $400 billion over the next three decades.

There are significant constitutional questions raised by Biden’s half trillion dollar loan giveaway — an acknowledgment made by one of the courts ruling against challengers on standing grounds. The problem is finding someone with standing to allow courts to reach the merits of this unilateral executive action.

On the merits, the Justice Department is insisting that no vote was needed by Congress for Biden to simply waive hundreds of millions of dollars of debt owed to the American people. Many of us contested that claim.

Biden’s latest gaffe is likely to be referenced in the ongoing litigation to reaffirm the assumption (including by Biden himself) that Congress would need to sign off on such a giveaway. After all, the Framers gave Congress the power of the purse as a check on such executive authority.

The Justice Department is defending the program, arguing that it is supported by the HEROES Act, a 2003 law that allows the U.S. Secretary of Education to "waive or modify" provisions that apply to federal student loan programs in cases of national emergencies. As the acronym indicates, this short bill was designed for military personnel who often found themselves in arrears while serving abroad. It allows the Education Secretary to grant student loan relief during a war, military operation, or national emergency. But nothing in the barely five-page act supports a sweeping and unprecedented waiver of billions of dollars in loans owed to the government.

The White House staff will now bring out the mop-and-bucket crew on the latest presidential spill, but it may be difficult to spin this latest gaffe. HEROES was passed in 2003 in the House by a vote of 421-1. That’s right, there was only one vote against the bill. (The only nay vote was from Democrat George Miller of California). It passed the Senate by “unanimous consent.” There was no roll call vote. according to the congressional record. At the time, Biden was the senior senator from Delaware.

So it appears rather than passing the original Heroes Act by “one or two votes,” there was only one vote in either house against it.

As for his half a trillion dollar giveaway of loan debts, there was no one or two-vote margin because he never submitted it to Congress. Biden is, however, right about one thing: He should have.

What is fascinating about Biden’s gaffe is that he was subconsciously or unwittingly channeling constitutional norms. This is precisely the type of major measure that the Framers assumed would be subject to debate and approval in Congress. James Madison observed that our system of separation of powers strongly separates the powers of “the sword from the purse.” Madison also noted in Federalist 58 that the power of the purse is the “most complete and effectual weapon with which any constitution can arm” a governmental branch.

Thus, Biden articulated the correct principle in claiming to have passed his loan forgiveness program even by the slimmest majority. The fact that did not actually occur only highlights the fact that it should have occurred. This may be why famed psychoanalyst Carl Jung once remarked, “The unconscious mind of man sees correctly even when conscious reason is blind and impotent.”

I don’t want to underestimate the chance that Biden is just lying about this but ever since the “Where’s Jackie?” gaffe late last month, I think confusion should now be the default explanation. If you can’t remember that the person you’re looking for in the room is dead, how can you remember how you pushed through student debt forgiveness?

You may also remember that the White House Press Secretary had quite a hard time explaining the “Where’s Jackie?” gaffe, claiming deceased Rep. Jackie Walorski was “top of mind” for Biden that day. No doubt Karine Jean-Pierre is going to be asked about this new gaffe tomorrow. I wonder what explanation she’ll come up with.

Another takeaway here is that people who claim Biden is running for reelection in two years are deluding themselves. We’re not yet two years into his term and he is visibly struggling. This decline is going to get worse over the next two years and that really is worrisome. The idea that he could go on for another four years after that is just not realistic.

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