Fox News White House correspondent Jacqui Heinrich asked White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre Tuesday on whether or not it is justifiable to call COVID-19 a national emergency for the purposes of passing student loan debt relief.
Heinrich asked the question after Biden invoked the Heroes Act, a post-9/11 law intended to benefit military members who served during the 9/11 terrorist attacks, in order to justify the administration’s student loan forgiveness program which was enacted in August. The Department of Education cited the COVID-19 pandemic as the reason for invoking the Heroes Act.
Heinrich quoted Biden’s previous remarks indicating that the pandemic is no longer a national emergency and wondered why, if that was the case, he was using it as such.
“Is it fair to call it a national emergency under the Heroes Act to justify student loan cancellation?” she asked.
Jean-Pierre claimed that the cancellation of student loan debt helped to alleviate economic burdens facing several Americans during the pandemic.
“Let’s step back for a second to understand why the president took that action when it comes to the student loan. When he came into the office, clearly, there were people, Americans, who were having a hard time dealing with the economic situation that the pandemic was causing and we had the former administration who mishandled the reaction to COVID, how we would move forward out of COVID … there are people who are really squeezed by the pandemic so he wanted to make sure that when we lift up the pause, we gave people a little bit more breathing room and that is where the student debt relief comes from.”
She argued that the pandemic continues to be a problem, even though the nation has begun to move past it, and reiterated that borrowers impacted by the program make less than $175,000 per year.
This prompted Heinrich to push further, asking, “Is there another, I guess a better mechanism to do that because the whole program is caught up now in litigation and a lot of this legal argument is that it can’t be a national emergency because of actions that the administration has taken elsewhere.”
“I actually disagree with you, what is happening is there are opponents out there of this student loan debt relief, who do not want to give middle class families a little bit more breathing room,” the press secretary replied. “There are opponents out there, many of them are Republicans, who do not want us to make sure that those 90% of Americans who are making $175,000 or less are getting that actual benefit to be able to put money down, be able to start a family, they are upset that we are trying to help those very, very Americans. So that is what is happening. This is pure politics what we’re seeing out there.”
“And the way the president sees this, this is not partisan,” she continued.
Heinrich asked what needs to happen before the Biden Administration no longer considers COVID a national emergency, prompting Jean-Pierre to reiterate that the pandemic is still a problem and that the American people need to get yet another booster shot to protect against infection.
Jean-Pierre’s comment comes after Biden publicly received his fifth booster shot on Tuesday after urging the nation in an address to get the booster as the winter season emerges.
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