The Supreme Court released its final decisions of the term Friday morning, handing down its highly-anticipated ruling on President Joe Biden’s student debt relief. The nation’s highest court weighed the Biden administration’s plan to erase up to $10,000 in federal student loan debt for borrowers and up to $20,000 for recipients of Pell Grants.
In the Dept. of Education v. Brown, the Court ruled 9-0 that they do not have standing and tossed the lawsuit. This involves individual borrowers. In Biden v. Nebraska, the justices ruled 6-3 against it. Biden’s debt-forgiveness program has been shut down.
In his opinion, conservative Chief Justice John Roberts cited a previous argument made by former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Roberts referenced Pelosi’s assertion that Biden lacked the authority to implement the forgiveness program on his own in remarks she made on July 28, 2021, during a press conference with reporters.
“People think that the President of the United States has the power for debt forgiveness. He does not. He can postpone. He can delay. But he does not have that power. That has to be an act of Congress,” Pelosi said at the time, Business Insider reported
Funny enough, Pelosi later supported Biden’s plan when he announced it in August 2022, calling it a “bold action” and a “strong step in Democrats’ fight to expand access to higher education.”
In the first case, all justices agreed that the two petitioners who were refused debt relief under the program had standing to challenge the Department of Education. This decision was made in Department of Education v. Brown.
The second case, Biden v. Nebraska, cleared the obstacle required to make their case in front of the court by upholding the authority of the several GOP states participating in the litigation to sue the Biden administration.
Roberts bluntly contended in the majority opinion, “Six States sued, arguing that the HEROES Act does not authorize the loan cancellation plan. We agree.”
In her dissent, liberal Justice Elena Kagan wrote in her dissent joined by Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson and Justice Sonia Sotomayor,”This Court today decides that some 40 million Americans will not receive the benefits the plan provides, because (so says the Court) that assistance is too ‘significant.’” Kagan claims that not only does the Biden administration have the right to cancel student debt en-masse, but that the six GOP states did not even have standing to challenge the plan in the first place, “They [the six states] oppose the Secretary’s loan cancellation plan on varied policy and legal grounds. But as everyone agrees, those objections are just general grievances; they do not show the particularized injury needed to bring suit.”
Back in March, Biden said following the arguments portion of the case that he wasn’t “confident” the loan giveaway would pass constitutional muster under the parameters established by a majority of justices.
“President Joe Biden told reporters Wednesday he is not confident the Supreme Court will uphold his executive order to cancel up to $20,000 of federal student loan debt for tens of millions of borrowers—a day after the court’s conservative majority seemed skeptical of Biden’s authority to enact debt relief,” Forbes reported.
Biden said outside the White House he’s “confident we’re on the right side of the law, but I’m not confident about the outcome of the decision yet,” according to a White House pool report.
Justice Brett Kavanaugh said at the hearing that “some of the biggest mistakes in the court’s history were deferring to assertions of the executive or emergency power,” while liberal justices, like Elena Kagan, defended the move as legal under the “very broad language” of the 2003 HEROES Act, Forbes noted further.
“Biden announced the student loan program in August, honoring a campaign pledge he made before the 2020 election. About 26 million borrowers applied in the few weeks applications were open, and more than 16 million were approved before a pair of court decisions put the loan forgiveness effort on hold. The administration had estimated that as many as 40 million people would be eligible for relief under the program,” USA Today reported.