The Supreme Court on Friday struck down President Joe Biden’s student debt relief program, saying that the HEROs act does allow the education security to waive approximately $430 billion in loans owed by borrowers.
The decision was split 6-3, with all conservatives in the majority. Chief Justice John Roberts, delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Justice Clarence Thomas, Justice Samuel Alito, Justice Neil Gorsuch and Justice Brett Kavanaugh joined. Justice Amy Coney Barrett filed a concurring opinion.
Justice Elena Kagan, filed a dissenting opinion, in which Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, joined.
“The HEROES Act allows the secretary to ‘waive or modify’ existing statutory or regulatory provisions applicable to financial assistance programs under the Education Act, but does not allow the secretary to rewrite that statute to the extent of canceling $430 billion of student loan principal,” Roberts wrote.
In March 2020, President Trump declared a national emergency in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. His administration put a pause on student debt repayments and the interest on outstanding student loans. The pause on payments was continued throughout Biden’s administration, which carried out multiple extensions.
As a Presidential candidate, Biden promised to provide student debt relief.
Last year, the Biden administration announced a 3-part student debt relief plan. The White House said that the plan would, “provide more breathing room to America’s working families as they continue to recover from the strains associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The decision blocked out $430 billion in debt relief for roughly 40 million Americans.
Nearly 26 million borrowers applied and 16 million were approved for debt relief under this program. The decision today means that no one who qualified will get even a penny of their loans canceled.
“The plaintiffs in this case are six States that have no personal stake in the Secretary’s loan forgiveness plan. They are classic ideological plaintiffs: They think the plan is a very bad idea, but they are no worse off because the Secretary differs,” Kagan writes in her dissenting opinion. “In giving those States a forum in adjudicating their complaint the Court forgets its proper role. The Court acts as though it is an arbiter of political and policy disputes, rather than of cases and controversies.”
The case before the court was Biden vs. Nebraska, where attorneys from Nebraska and five other Republican-led states sued and argued that the president was extending his powers by unlawfully invoking the COVID-19 pandemic to assert student debt relief.
In their defense, lawyers for the Biden administration argued that the states had no standing to sue as they were not harmed by the loan forgiveness program and said that Congress had authorized the Education Department to “waive or modify” provisions under student aid programs.
The decision found that the plaintiffs did have standing to bring the case before the court.
A federal appeals court in St. Louis sided in favor of Republican-led states and blocked the debt relief program from taking effect.
In December, the Supreme Court agreed to lift the order by the appeals court. In late February, the highest court in the land agreed to hear the administration’s appeal.
The court’s conservative majority along with Roberts, said that they were highly skeptical that the 2003 law or the pandemic gave the administration authority to wipe away millions in student loans.