Student loan forgiveness may be nixed by U.S. top court
The conservative judges who hold the majority of the U.S. Supreme Court seem likely to sink President Joe Biden’s plan to wipe out or cut student loans held by millions of Americans.
In a debate that lasted more than three hours on Tuesday, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts led his conservative colleagues to question the administration’s authority to broadly cancel federal student loans due to the COVID-19 emergency. presented.
The plan has so far been thwarted by Republican-appointed lower court judges.
It wasn’t clear if any of the six justices appointed by the Republican president would approve the debt relief program, but Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett were among the most open to the administration’s case. Looked.
Biden’s only hope is that the plan will be allowed to proceed, as the chances of courts finding that Republican-led states and individuals challenging the plan lack the legal right to sue are slim. I thought
This allows courts to dismiss cases at the threshold stage without ruling on the basic idea of loan forgiveness programs that seem to plague judges on the right side of the court.
Roberts was among the judges who lashed out at Elizabeth Preloger, the Biden administration’s top Supreme Court attorney, suggesting the administration is overstepping its powers with the program.
Pointing to the program’s wide-ranging impact and costs, Roberts said three times that it would cost “$5 trillion.” The program is estimated to cost him $400 billion over 30 years.
“If you’re talking about this in the abstract, I think most casual observers would say, if you’re going to give up that much money…you’re going to affect a lot of Americans’ obligations on the subject.” If that’s a big controversy, they’ll think Congress should take action,” Roberts said.
Kavanaugh suggested the administration was using “old laws” to unilaterally implement a debt relief program that Congress rejected. He said the situation was well known. The executive branch was implementing a large-scale new program, even though the government did not approve of the action.”
It “seems problematic,” he said.
Kavanaugh said the government has cited the national emergency caused by the coronavirus pandemic as a mandate for the debt relief program. He argued that some of the “greatest moments in court history” were those “against the president’s claim of emergency powers.”
But at another point, Kavanaugh said the conservative majority in the court had more than other cases where other pandemic-related programs, such as moratoriums on eviction and requirements for forced evictions, were terminated by the program and the powers provided by Congress. suggested that it may be more suitable between Frequent testing of vaccines and large workplaces.
Preloger told the judge that if the program isn’t put into place before the pandemic-affected three-year loan moratorium ends by this summer, “defaults and delinquencies will skyrocket above pre-pandemic levels. would,” he said.
“The state is asking this court to deny this important relief to millions of Americans,” she said.
According to the government, 26 million people have applied for federal student loan forgiveness of up to US$20,000 under the plan.
Biden said Monday, “I am confident that I have the legal authority to carry out that plan.
The president, who once doubted his authority to write off student debt heavily, first announced the program in August. Legal challenges soon followed.
Republican-led state and legislative members, as well as conservative legal interests, are opposing the plan as a clear violation of Biden’s executive power. Democratic-led states and liberal interest groups are backing the administration, which is asking courts to allow the plan to go ahead.
According to the administration, the 2003 law, commonly known as the HEROES Act, allows the Secretary of Education to waive or change the terms of federal student loans in connection with national emergencies. The law was primarily intended to keep military personnel from deteriorating economically while fighting the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Nebraska and other states that filed lawsuits say they don’t need to plan now to keep defaults at roughly the same level they were before the pandemic. The 20 million borrowers whose entire loans are wiped out will have a “windfall” and will be wealthier than they were pre-pandemic, the state said.
“This is the creation of an entirely new program that goes far beyond what Congress intended,” Nebraska Attorney General James Campbell said in court on Tuesday.
On a soggy Monday night, dozens of borrowers from across the country flocked to camp near the courthouse in hopes of securing a table for debate. She said the plan would wipe out all but about $500 of the about $20,000 she has in student loans.
“I was 18 when I got to college. I was. She plans to study law after graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in May.
A previous program that was stopped by a court was billed primarily as a public health measure aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19.
In contrast, the Loan Forgiveness Plan aims to combat the economic impact of the pandemic.
The state of emergency is expected to end on May 11, but the economic impact will continue despite historically low unemployment and other signs of economic strength, the government said.
In addition to the debate over the authority to discharge student debt, the court will decide whether the state and the two individuals who are also challenging the judge have the legal right or standing to sue. are facing
A party usually has to prove that they have suffered financial damage in order to sue in such cases. A federal judge initially ruled that the state would not be harmed and dismissed the case before an appellate panel ruled it could proceed.
Barrett joined three liberal justices and repeatedly questioned Campbell on the issue. However, at least one more conservative vote is required to form a majority.
Of the two individuals who filed lawsuits in Texas, one had commercially held student loans and the other was eligible for $10,000 in debt relief, not the maximum of $20,000. I have. Even if they win the case, they will get nothing.
Arguments can be heard live on AP’s youtube channel or on the court’s website.
A decision is expected by the end of June.
Associated Press writer Colin Binkley contributed to this report.