RELEASE: In Striking Down the Biden Administration Student Debt Relief Plan, the Supreme Court’s Conservative Supermajority Substitutes Its Policy Judgment for that of Congress
WASHINGTON, DC – Following the Supreme Court’s announcement of its decision in Biden v. Nebraska, one of two challenges to the Biden administration student debt relief plan, Constitutional Accountability Center Appellate Counsel Smita Ghosh issued the following reaction:
In an opinion by Chief Justice John Roberts, the Court held that the Biden administration lacked the authority to relieve the student debt burdens of borrowers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Although the Court claimed to rely on the text of the HEROES Act, a law giving the Education Department the power to waive student loan rules in the face of national emergencies, the purportedly textualist Court ignored the breadth of the language Congress used in the HEROES Act, which makes clear that education officials can take broad actions relating to student loans in the face of unforeseen circumstances. Former Representative George Miller, one of the chief architects of the law, made this point in a brief filed by the Constitutional Accountability Center. The Court’s majority also focused on the unprecedented nature of the debt relief plan—an approach that disregards the unprecedented nature of the pandemic itself.
Justice Kagan dissented, echoing many of the points in Representative Miller’s brief. In Justice Kagan’s words, the Act was designed to deal with situations that are “often unpredictable in nature,” and gives experts at the Education Department the broad authority to determine how to protect student borrowers in national emergencies.
As Justice Kagan further explained, the Court departed from its traditional role in this case, making itself—rather than Congress—the decisionmaker on federal student-loan policy. The consequences of that choice are profound—both for student borrowers and for the rule of law.
Case page in Biden v. Nebraska and Department of Education v. Brown: https://www.theusconstitution.org/litigation/biden-v-nebraska/
George Miller, Can Biden legally cancel student debt? There’s no question, Feb. 22, 2023: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2023/02/22/student-debt-cancellation-congress-heroes-act/
Constitutional Accountability Center is a nonpartisan think tank and public interest law firm dedicated to fulfilling the progressive promise of the Constitution’s text, history, and values. Visit CAC’s website at www.theusconstitution.org.