I filed an amicus brief on behalf of former House speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) and former representatives John Kline (R-Minn.) and Howard P. “Buck” McKeon (R-Calif.) in the cases now before the Supreme Court concerning President Biden’s student loan cancellation efforts. My clients wrote the legislation at issue — the Heroes Act of 2003 — and make a compelling case that the law never intended to allow the president’s radical policy.
In his Feb. 22 commentary, “Can Biden legally cancel student debt? There’s no question.,” former representative George Miller (D-Calif.) takes my clients to task, writing that they “don’t speak for every member of Congress who voted for the law.” I’m not sure that Mr. Miller would know, as he’s the only member of Congress who voted against the 2003 act.
More to the point though, Mr. Miller obscured important context. Every member who spoke on the floor recognized that the act didn’t forgive any student loan balance or even interest. Some lamented this, advocating for additional legislation aimed at canceling debt because, according to then-Rep. Tim Roemer (D-Ind.), Congress did not provide “direct loan forgiveness in this legislation.”
Mr. Miller should know this. He complained in 2001 that Congress passed the original Heroes Act but not other forgiveness efforts.
Congress’s words are clear: Our lawmakers wanted to repay Americans who endured personal hardship in service to their country with protection against the distractions of administrative obligations arising from student loans, not radically undermine the student loan system entirely.
Congress speaks in legislation. The text is paramount. But that doesn’t mean we should ignore context. Neither support Mr. Miller’s case.
This letter was originally published at The Washington Post on February 24, 2023.