The conservative majority Supreme Court recently heard arguments in a case challenging President Biden’s executive order to forgive up to $400 billion in student loan debt. Republicans are almost uniformly opposed to the idea of blanket student loan forgiveness, and even top members of the party, like then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi, questioned Biden’s legal authority to do so.
Supreme Court hearing arguments over student loan forgiveness
The legal justification for the president’s action is grounded in a post-9/11 law enacted by Congress, which says that when the president declares a national emergency, the secretary of education is authorized to waive or modify any statutory provision governing student loan programs. The Biden administration invoked that statute to provide up to $20,000 in debt relief for federal student loan borrowers with limited incomes during the pandemic.
The heart of this case is whether Biden’s plan goes beyond his executive power. Conservatives have granted broad latitude to the president’s ability to take executive action under prior presidents, including Trump. However, during the oral arguments, the court’s conservatives were extremely skeptical of the administration’s argument. Six Republican-dominated states are challenging the law, but it’s hard to show that you’ve been harmed by a program that helps about 43 million student loan borrowers.
Conservatives not a fan of Joe Biden’s decision
Moreover, the conservatives on the court really are not a fan of what Joe Biden did, and a lot of the points they were making were good policy questions. This program raises the question of fairness to the people who’ve already paid off their student loans. However, Congress had already resolved this issue when it gave the president authority to modify or waive all kinds of things involving student loans.
Politically, this issue is a flashpoint among the bases of the parties. Liberals see it as about fairness, economic, and racial equity, while conservatives see it as a basic fairness agreement. Moreover, the White House and the Biden 2024 campaign and Democrats more broadly have been trying to weigh the issue of student loans to realize who it matters for. This issue matters for younger people who tend to be strong Democratic base voters who aren’t always in love with President Biden. This is one area where he can call attention to a thing that is very important to people who are millennials or Gen Zers to be able to say, vote for me; I’ve got your interests in mind.