OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
President Joe Biden is receiving a lot of new pushback regarding his plan to reduce some student loan debt by executive action.
In an interview with “60 Minutes” that aired on Sunday, Biden was asked by anchor Scott Pelley: “Mr. President, first Detroit Auto Show in three years. Is the pandemic over?”
“The pandemic is over,” Biden declared. “We still have a problem with COVID. We’re still doing a lotta work on it. It’s– but the pandemic is over. if you notice, no one’s wearing masks. Everybody seems to be in pretty good shape. And so I think it’s changing. And I think this is a perfect example of it.”
Those remarks sparked an immediate backlash, with several critics focusing on the fact that Biden used special authority granted to the Executive Branch during the pandemic as justification for the student loan bailout, The Daily Wire reported.
“President Biden’s declaration on 60 Minutes that the pandemic is over—which his administration also argued when ending Title 42 back in May—confirms the illegality of his attempt to transfer hundreds of billions of dollars of student debt to the taxpayer,” National Review writer Charles C.W. Cooke tweeted. “Textually, the OLC’s (Office of Legal Counsel) interpretation of the 2003 HEROES Act was preposterous from top to bottom. But even if one were to cynically ignore all that, the lack of an emergency would render the whole thing moot. Biden just admitted on TV he’s breaking the law.”
Noted Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.): “If ‘the pandemic is over’ as Biden says, then all of the President’s emergency powers predicated on a pandemic, all COVID vax mandates, the emergency powers of every governor, Emergency Use Authorizations, and the PREP act should all be voided tomorrow.”
JUST IN – Biden: "The pandemic is over."pic.twitter.com/iS1gq31MD1
— Disclose.tv (@disclosetv) September 19, 2022
Other critics took different views.
“THE MANDATES MUST END. IMMEDIATELY. ALL OF THEM,” journalist Megyn Kelly tweeted. “And if they don’t, new legal challenges must be filed ASAP.”
In early August, despite the fact that COVID-19 infections were nowhere near the levels they were in 2020 or even 2021, the White House announced it was considering extending the pandemic emergency through the November midterm elections.
Citing three people with knowledge of the situation, Politico reported that the decision has not yet been finalized. However, if it does happen, federal measures protecting Americans’ health care coverage, vaccine access, and treatments would be extended.
“COVID is not over,” one senior Biden official told the outlet. “The pandemic is not over. It doesn’t make sense to lift this [declaration] given what we’re seeing on the ground in terms of cases.”
If the proposed extension is OKed by President Joe Biden, the Department of Health and Human Services will keep the current declaration in place past the midterms and most likely into next year.
The outlet continued:
An HHS spokesperson declined to comment, and the people with knowledge of the matter cautioned the situation could still change ahead of an Aug. 15 deadline for deciding whether to let the declaration continue.
The Biden administration has increasingly pointed to the availability of Covid vaccines and treatments as evidence that Americans who are vaccinated and boosted can live with the virus in relative safety. But even with that new posture, many administration health officials remain wary of the message that ending the public health emergency declaration would send at a time when caseloads are topping 100,000 a day.
“It will end whenever the emergency ends,” one senior administration official said, summing up the internal attitude toward the declaration.
That said, Politico noted further that “the debate around continuing the declaration…has grown more contentious.”
“With vaccines and treatments widely distributed and no remaining expectation the administration can eradicate Covid, health officials over the last several months have increasingly discussed when that phase-out should occur, and what it should look like,” the outlet reported.
Politico reported separately in mid-August that the Department of Health and Human Services plans to extend the emergency for another 90 days next month.