Supreme Court tackles Biden student loan plan

Student loan holders are participating in a demonstration outside the White House staff to demand that President Biden cancel student loans.

Jemal Countess | Getty Images Entertainment | Getty Images

The fate of the Biden administration’s student loan forgiveness plan now depends on the Supreme Court.

That could be bad news for borrowers, say legal and higher education experts.

“Conservatives in the judiciary have been very aggressive in overturning the decisions of Congress and the president,” said Gregory Caldeira, a political science professor at The Ohio State University. “I will not be surprised if the court cancels the decree”.

Higher education expert Mark Kantrowitz agrees.

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“The US Supreme Court is more likely than not to block student loan forgiveness plans,” Kantrowitz said.

The Supreme Court decided to take up the case after the U.S. Department of Justice sent an emergency request asking the justices to overturn the pardon plan that the U.S. Supreme Court issued for Eighth District, St. Louis, at the request of six states led by the GOP.

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The justices, who will decide whether the president’s debt relief policy harms plaintiffs or interferes with executive authority, said they will hear oral arguments in February. .

The cuts will address student loan challenges

In August, Biden announced that the US Department of Education would provide student loan forgiveness of up to $20,000 to tens of millions of Americans. The independent Congressional Budget Office estimates that the plan will cost around $400 billion.

Long before the president acted, Republicans criticized allowing student loans as a gift to high school graduates. They also said the president does not have the power to forgive consumer debt without Congressional approval.

Not surprisingly, legal challenges ensued. At least six lawsuits have been filed against the president’s plan.

President Biden announced his student loan relief plan

Why the Supreme Court might block pardons

For several reasons, Urman predicted that the Supreme Court would rule against Biden. He said conservative judges believe government agencies are using too much power and “violating the separation of powers.” In addition, he said, the concept of forgiveness seems to contradict their idea of ​​individual responsibility.


Such a politically motivated decision, however, could further damage public perception of the Supreme Court, Urman said.

“Eliminating clemency will increase the likelihood that conservative judges vote for conservatives, and liberal judges vote for liberals,” Urman said. Only 25% of Americans trust the Supreme Court, a Gallup poll found last summer.

Abolishing clemency would increase the likelihood that conservative judges would vote for conservatives.

Dan Urman

law professor at Northeastern University

If the president’s plan is blocked, he added, it would be “another example, along with abortion and guns, of the judiciary taking a position that most Americans oppose.”

In an August poll by The Economist and YouGov, 51% of respondents said they supported Biden’s mortgage plan. About 40% oppose the move.

“In the past, the Supreme Court has usually ruled in accordance with public opinion,” Urman said.

Debate on the limits of presidential power

Despite the popularity of the debt relief plan, the Biden administration insists it is operating within the law, pointing out that the Heroes Act of 2003 gives the education secretary the power to waive related regulations. student loans during the national crisis. The United States has been operating under an emergency declaration since March 2020.

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However, advocates for the GOP-led state argue that the administration should not use the public health crisis to enact such disruptive policies.

“The administration is once again invoking the COVID-19 pandemic to assert powers beyond anything Congress could have imagined,” the lawyers wrote in a brief to the judge, noting that the court at most, the White House blocked a nationwide ban on deportations.

However, creditor advocacy groups, in a brief to the US Supreme Court, said that student loan forgiveness is essential to the country’s recovery from the pandemic. .

The public health crisis has exacerbated financial hardship for “borrowers who, for decades, have been at the mercy of a broken student loan system,” he said. those who wrote.

Without repeal, they warned, “working and middle-class borrowers are at risk of default.”


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