student debt

Supreme Court Blocks Biden’s Student-Debt Relief Plan

Photo: OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images

One day after it moved to gut affirmative action in college admissions, the Supreme Court’s conservative supermajority ruled 6-3 to strike down Biden’s student-loan relief plan. The majority opinion argued that the program, which would have wiped out more than $400 billion of student debt, was an overreach of presidential authority and required congressional authorization. “The question here is not whether something should be done,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote. “It is who has the authority to do it.”

The Biden administration first announced its debt-relief program last summer, proposing to cancel $10,000 in federal loans for borrowers making less than $125,000, and up to $20,000 for borrowers who previously received Pell Grants. According to the New York Times, the administration said the plan was meant to address the residual effects of the pandemic and was authorized by the HEROES Act, which gives the secretary of Education the power to “waive or modify any statutory or regulatory provision” to protect borrowers impacted by “a war or other military operation or national emergency.”

Republicans swiftly mobilized to block the plan, with several conservative advocacy groups filing lawsuits across multiple states that argued the program was an unlawful exertion of executive authority. Last November, a federal judge in Texas struck down the plan, leaving the 26 million borrowers who had already applied for relief in limbo. The Biden administration appealed, with Press Secretary Karine-Jean Pierre asserting that it planned to help working-class Americans “get back on their feet” and that the opponents who sued to block that assistance were “backed by extreme Republican special interests.”

Back in March 2020, the Trump administration invoked the HEROES Act to pause student-loan repayments and suspend the accrual of interest. The Biden administration continued the pause, which is set to end in August. In Friday’s ruling, Roberts argued that the debt-relief program could not be justified under the HEROES Act, writing that the debt-cancellation plan was “an exhaustive rewriting of the statute” that “cannot fairly be called a waiver.” In response, White House officials say the president is imminently expected to “announce new actions to protect student-loan borrowers.”

Supreme Court Blocks Biden’s Student-Debt Relief Plan