The court will hear two challenges to the program, one brought by a group of Republican-controlled states and another lobbied by a conservative advocacy group.
Conservative justices on the US Supreme Court have questioned the legality of President Joe Biden’s plan to reduce the student debt of more than 40 million people in a high-stakes showdown for presidential power.
In the first of two cases the court is hearing Tuesday, Judge Brett Kavanaugh suggested he is wary of expanding the presidential powers during national emergencies. The Biden administration argues that the student loan forgiveness program is a response to the covid-19 pandemic.
“Some of the biggest mistakes in the history of the court were deferring assertions of executive or emergency power,” Kavanaugh said. “ Some of the greatest moments in the history of the court were the rejection of the presidential claims of emergency powers .” Chief Justice John Roberts has said the program will have huge financial implications for millions of Americans , suggesting that Congress did not authorize the president to take such an important step unilaterally.
“We are talking about US$500,000 and 43 million Americans. How does that fit under the normal understanding of modify? Roberts said, referring to a code word in the 2003 law at the center of the case. The law, known as the Heroes Act, says the clerk can “waive or modify” provisions to ensure debtors are “not made worse off financially” because of a national emergency.
Court 5-4 Roberts compared the case to the decision that prevented the Trump administration from ending a program that protects hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants from deportation. Roberts joined the liberal wing of the court in the majority in that 2020 case. The student loan plan would forgive up to $20,000 in federal loans for certain borrowers making less than $125,000 per year, $250,000 for households. The Congressional Budget Office estimates the cancellation would cost about $400 billion over 30 years.
On Tuesday, the court will hear two challenges to the program, one brought by a group of Republican-controlled states and another lobbied by a conservative advocacy group known as the Job Creators Network on behalf of two borrowers who say they are being unfairly excluded from the program. program. full scope.
The conservative-controlled Supreme Court has already blocked Biden from blocking evictions during the pandemic and requiring workers to get a covid shot or get regular tests . Judges have also cut the power of the Environmental Protection Agency to address climate change. The three cases were decided 6-3 on ideological lines.
Those rulings are now key precedents in the case of student loans. Most in those cases set up the “top questions doctrine” as a powerful deterrent to federal regulators, saying the president needs clear authorization from Congress before taking actions that have sweeping political and economic significance.
The biggest problem for opponents has been establishing standing to sue , that is, demonstrating that the policy harms them directly. A federal appeals court said the states were entitled because of the impact on the Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority , a state-created loan servicer that could lose many of its accounts. Mohela, who is not involved in the case, is required by law to contribute to a fund Missouri uses to pay for projects at public universities.