Protect Democracy releases the following statement attributed to Soren Dayton, Policy Advocate, in response to the Biden Administration’s invocation of national emergency powers to address student loan debt.
Nearly two and half years into the COVID emergency, the Biden Administration has invoked national emergency powers under the 2003 HEROES Act to implement a broad student debt cancellation and restructuring program. This program is not narrowly designed to address the effects of the underlying emergency. The timing and scope of this broad and permanent relief program call this use of emergency powers based on the COVID emergency rationale into question.
Improper use of emergency powers is among the biggest threats to our democracy. Congress grants the president the authority to declare a national emergency and to unlock powers for the executive branch to address sudden crises that Congress does not have time or ability to address. If Biden can use emergency powers to get around Congress, so can a president with autocratic ambitions.
The President’s support of the executive branch’s improper use of national emergency authorities underscores the need for national emergency reform. Congress has been working towards a bipartisan consensus on reforms to the national emergency system. These reforms include regular congressional consideration and approval of emergency declarations and a clear nexus between the underlying emergency and the powers used.
Protect Democracy calls on President Biden to endorse these reforms as part of his commitment to restoring American democratic institutions and calls on Congress to swiftly pass these reforms.
Protect Democracy opposes abuses of emergency powers regardless of the underlying policy or the political party taking action.
Background on national emergency reform and national emergencies
- There is an active effort to reform the national emergency system.
- Protect Democracy sued the Trump administration on behalf of El Paso County and the Border Network for Human Rights to stop the national emergency at the southern border. See details here. A central argument is that the National Emergencies Act only “permits the President to act in unforeseen situations.”
- Protect Democracy’s Soren Dayton testified to a House Judiciary Committee hearing on national emergency reform on May 17, 2022.
- Protect Democracy’s Soren Dayton and Kristy Parker published, Why President Biden Should Not Declare a Climate Emergency, in Just Security (Feb. 10, 2021).