By Savannah Hulsey Pointer
The chief legal counsel of the White House is set to depart in the coming month after a tenure of almost three years. During that time, Stuart Delery provided legal guidance to President Joe Biden in navigating the legal aspects of his pandemic response, addressing Republican inquiries, and formulating significant legislative initiatives.
Following President Biden’s victory over the incumbent President Donald Trump in November 2020, Mr. Delery became a member of the Biden transition legal team. Before assuming his position as legal counsel, Mr. Delery held the role of deputy counsel. He was subsequently promoted to the highest position in the summer following the departure of Dana Remus, who served as President Biden’s initial counsel in the White House.
The White House issued a statement about Mr. Delery’s departure, saying: “Stuart Delery has been a trusted adviser and a constant source of innovative legal thinking since Day One of my Administration.
“From his work during those early days on COVID-19 and efforts to get life-saving vaccines to the American public to the implementation of major legislative accomplishments such as the American Rescue Plan, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, and the Inflation Reduction Act, he has been an integral part of my team and will be missed throughout the Administration. I extend my thanks to Stuart and his family for his service.”
The White House has yet to announce a successor.
Mr. Delery’s resignation coincides with the ongoing inquiry conducted by House Republicans into President Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, and the genesis of the COVID-19 pandemic. It also comes at a time when some Republican legislators are advocating for the initiation of an impeachment probe against the president.
In the interim, an appointed special counsel, designated by the attorney general under President Biden’s administration, is currently conducting an investigation into the existence of secret materials located at both President Biden’s residence in Delaware and his previous office in Washington.
The president’s chief of staff, Jeff Zients, has reportedly requested that Cabinet members and senior officials determine by the end of the summer whether they will resign or remain in their positions through the 2024 election.
Delery’s Key Projects
In a formal statement, Mr. Zients said that Mr. Delery’s legal acumen and consistent guidance played a pivotal role in the administration’s attaining significant policy goals.
The outgoing attorney held several positions in the Biden administration. During his tenure as deputy counsel, Mr. Delery reportedly advised President Biden on key legislation, including the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan designed to help the country recover from the coronavirus outbreak and the $1 trillion infrastructure measure.
As the chief White House attorney, Mr. Delery was a senior adviser to President Biden as he drafted an order to cancel $400 billion in student loan debt last year. In a 6–3 decision with conservative justices in the majority, the Supreme Court ruled that the administration exceeded its authority with the plan, leaving borrowers responsible for repayments that are set to resume this autumn.
The White House’s assertion of legal authority to cancel debt was ultimately unsuccessful. This claim was made under legislation that granted the education secretary the power to “waive or modify any statutory or regulatory provision” but was subsequently amended to encompass anyone affected by “a war or other military operation or national emergency.” According to the White House, the COVID-19 pandemic has been deemed an emergency of significant magnitude.
Last month, President Biden unveiled a somewhat restrained proposal aimed at offering partial alleviation to people burdened by student loan debt. The proposed initiative is based on a federal statute that regulates the student loan program as its legal foundation. The statute incorporates a provision that grants the secretary of education the power to “compromise, waive, or release” student loans.
The recently proposed plan is currently encountering a legal dispute.
Border Policy Work
Mr. Delery also played a significant part in the administration’s efforts to implement new regulations at the U.S. border with Mexico. The outgoing attorney assisted the Biden administration in an effort to deter migrants from entering the country illegally by urging them to submit an online application for asylum instead.
The modifications to asylum rules took place with the lifting of Title 42, coronavirus asylum restrictions that were put in place during the pandemic health emergency. Title 42 gave the go-ahead for the limitations and permitted greater migratory controls in the interest of preserving public health.
In 2022, President Biden attempted to end the use of Title 42, which took effect before he assumed office. Republicans filed a lawsuit, claiming that the restrictions were required for border security and the courts had maintained the regulations. However, the Biden administration indicated in January that it would end national COVID-19 emergencies; consequently, the pandemic-related border restriction was lifted in May.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.