Tuesday, the Supreme Court heard arguments in a case challenging President Biden’s expansive plan to erase student loans for higher education, which may have an effect on at least 26 million Americans. The $400 billion project was poorly targeted and expensive, and Mr. Biden was unable to win congressional support for it.
Although we have called the Biden proposal a costly and retrograde error, we also think it would be overreaching for the justices to overturn it. This is one of the situations in which the court should be aware of the limitations that constrain when and how it can exercise its authority.
The way in which replies are limited speaks volumes. You know you went too far lumping Joe Biden with Manchin and Sinema.
Voting is a fundamental right; student loan cancellation is not. As Young Dems, let’s do better before invoking MLK on #MLKDay. https://t.co/yIEYF8eeBN
— Madam Vice President Harris is THEE GOAT! (@flywithkamala) January 17, 2022
According to Mr. Biden’s proposal, borrowers earning up to $125,000 year would be eligible for a $10,000 debt forgiveness. The majority of these individuals can afford to repay the money they borrowed to get degrees that will increase their lifelong earning potential. Pell Grant recipients would receive a $20,000 reduction, which the federal government provides to low-income college students.
The 2003 Heroes Act, which provided that the executive branch might “waive or amend” specific student loan restrictions during an emergency to guarantee borrowers are not worse off, was invoked by the president to pledge the federal government to such generosity. The covid-19 public health emergency was previously cited as justification by President Donald Trump to halt student loan repayments.
Yet, Mr. Biden’s plan to cancel student loans is much more comprehensive and a dubious interpretation of the two-decade-old law. It is unlikely that when lawmakers passed it in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, they had in mind a future president announcing audacious, universal student loan relief as opposed to, say, pausing loan payments while soldiers are serving in a foreign conflict or assisting hurricane survivors in rebuilding. According to a plain interpretation of the law’s intent, aid can be given to people who would likely struggle to pay back their loans as a direct result of a major emergency.
But, the administration’s opponents, which include a number of states and two people, “lack standing” to dispute the law because they have no immediate, tangible stake in the result. Tuesday’s arguments included discussions about MOHELA, a loan-servicing company established by the state of Missouri. Missouri filed a lawsuit on the loan-behalf, servicer’s claiming that it was really a state organisation. In fact, the state established MOHELA to be a self-sufficient business, so any losses it suffered under the Biden plan would not have an effect on the state. (MOHELA itself may have had a claim, but it chose not to pursue it.) Much weaker justifications for the position of the other challenges are provided.
Standing is more than just a protocol requirement. Courts can only take cases into consideration when a party is harmed and objects to it, which is a fundamental legal concept. “The judiciary doesn’t sit as a roving commission to rule on the validity of either Congress’s enactments or the executive’s implementation of those enactments,” U.S. solicitor general Elizabeth B. Prelogar pointed out. This implies that some acts by presidents or Congresses—even the most heinous ones—are never or only briefly contested in court.