The U.S. Supreme Court hosted hearings on Tuesday to determine the fate of the Biden administration’s student-loan-forgiveness program.
- The Supreme Court began oral hearings on Tuesday, February 28, in a nearly four-hour session that questioned the merit of using a 2003 statute, the HEROES Act, permitting the Department of Education to student-loan cut debt during a crisis.
- Chief Justice John Roberts questioned the half-trillion-dollar price tag and the executive order’s legality without congressional approval. The liberal wing of the court was more open to arguments in its favor.
- The cases include Biden vs. Nebraska and Department Of Education v. Brown. A decision is expected within the next three months, with experts suggesting it will rule against the Biden administration six to three, Forbes reports.
Why It’s Important
On August 24, 2022, President Joe Biden announced a student loan relief program that could reduce students’ outstanding debt by up to $20,000 for individuals earning less than $125,000 annually.
President Biden’s executive order has faced persistent legal challenges since he signed it seven months ago. Even after scaling back the scope of the order in September, Republican lawmakers continue to criticize the executive branch’s authority to sign an order sweeping enough to cancel trillions of dollars in debt, even in an emergency.
U.S. District Judge Mark Pittman ruled it lacks legislative approval and abuses executive power, striking the order down in November.
The liberal wing of the court was more open to the order’s legal defense, with Justice Elena Kagan arguing that the HEROES Act is broadly worded enough that the Biden administration’s interpretation isn’t outside of the scope of the legislation, given the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and the country’s two-year national emergency. Justice Amy Coney Barrett similarly questioned the states’ legal standing to sue the federal government’s order.
A ruling against student loans would be a significant swipe against the executive powers of the Biden administration. It could shift more power to the Supreme Court away from the executive and legislative branches.
“Along comes the government and tells that person: You don’t have to pay your loan. Nobody’s telling the person who is trying to set up the lawn-service business that he doesn’t have to pay his loan. He still does, even though his tax dollars are going to support the forgiveness of the loan for the college graduate, who’s now going to make a lot more than him over the course of his lifetime,” says Justice Roberts
“Loan forgiveness is a paradigmatic form of debt relief, and the secretary acted within the heartland of his authority and in line with the central purpose of the HEROES Act in providing that relief here. To apply the major questions doctrine to override that clear text would deny borrowers critical relief that Congress authorized and the secretary deemed essential,” says U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar.