Biden ‘Not Confident’ Supreme Court Will Uphold Student Debt Cancellation



President Joe Biden told reporters Wednesday he is not confident the Supreme Court will uphold his executive order to cancel up to $20,000 of federal student loan debt for tens of millions of borrowers—a day after the court’s conservative majority seemed skeptical of Biden’s authority to enact debt relief.

Key Facts

Biden said outside the White House he’s “confident we’re on the right side of the law, but I’m not confident about the outcome of the decision yet,” according to a White House pool report.

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments Tuesday in two challenges seeking to strike down Biden’s order, with conservative justices pushing back on the Biden Administration’s argument that a 2003 law gives the federal government broad authority to modify student loans during times of emergency, like the Covid-19 pandemic.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh said at the hearing that “some of the biggest mistakes in the court’s history were deferring to assertions of executive or emergency power,” as liberal justices, like Elena Kagan, defended the move as legal under the “very broad language” of the 2003 HEROES Act.

Conservatives hold a 6-3 majority on the court.

Key Background

The student debt relief plan has been on hold since October as a series of legal challenges make their way through the courts—many of which center around a conservative argument that the executive branch cannot make significant changes to federal student loan programs without congressional approval. Biden announced the plan in August, which proposes broadly canceling $10,000 in debt for the around 43 million federal borrowers who make less than $125,000 a year, while the around 27 million in that cohort who also received Pell Grants would have $20,000 in debt canceled, according to the White House.

What To Watch For

The court will issue its ruling on the program before its term ends in either late June or early July. Borrowers will be required to start making loan payments again either 60 days after the loan forgiveness program goes back into effect, if the court allows it to, or 60 days after June 30—whichever is sooner, though Biden could choose to extend the program again before the national public health emergency ends on May 11. Required payments for federal student loans have been on hold since former President Donald Trump enacted a pause in March 2020.

Further Reading

Supreme Court’s Conservative Majority Wary Of Biden’s Student Loan Forgiveness Plan (Forbes)

Student Debt Forgiveness At Supreme Court Tuesday—Here’s What You Need To Know (Forbes)

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