WASHINGTON — Democrats are vowing not to forgo student debt relief after the Supreme Court blocked President Joe Biden’s pardon plan on Friday, denying aid to more than 40 million borrowers.
“This fight is not over,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said in a statement. “The president has more tools to write off student debt — and he needs to use them. More than 40 million hard-working Americans are waiting for the help President Biden has promised them, and they expect this administration to throw everything it has into the fight until it delivers. this commitment.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (DN.Y.), another outspoken student loan debt forgiveness advocate, argued that the Biden administration can forgive student loans citing provisions of the Education Act. higher education, a 1965 law that established federal assistance programs for college fees.
“It is very important to note that this SCOTUS decision does NOT remove Biden’s ability to apply for student loan forgiveness,” Ocasio Cortez tweeted. “Administrator Biden can use the HEA (Higher Ed Act) – our position all along – to continue loan forgiveness before payments resume. They should do that as soon as possible.
Biden announced on Friday that he would indeed seek to use this law to provide student loan relief, calling it “legally sound” but adding that it would “take longer.”
Biden’s original plan would have forgiven up to $20,000 in student loan debt for Pell Grant recipients and up to $10,000 for other borrowers earning less than $125,000 a year in 2020 or 2021. The administration cited its power to cancel loans under the HEROES Act of 2003, which allowed the president to waive student debt terms during a national emergency. In this instance, Biden cited the COVID-19 national emergency, which he ended earlier this year.
But the six conservative Supreme Court justices disagreed, writing that Biden only had the power to make “modest adjustments and additions to the existing provisions” of the HEROES Act, “not to transform them.” .
In dissent, liberal Justice Elana Kagan tore apart the majority opinion for overstepping “her own limited role in the governance of our nation.” She wrote that the law allowed the administration to “waive or modify any statutory or regulatory provision” and “replace old provisions with new ‘terms and conditions’.”
The government has previously said a pandemic-related payment pause will end on September 1, meaning payments will be due in October. Regarding the forgiveness program, a notice posted Friday on StudentAid.gov tells borrowers that the US Department of Education is “reviewing the court’s decision to determine next steps.”
McKenzie Ball of Bozeman, Montana, said he would have had $14,000 in student debt erased by the Biden plan. He doesn’t much believe that any Plan B scheme could have the same impact.
“I don’t expect the political process to work in my favor,” Ball, 37, told HuffPost. “It would have been nice, but I accept that my name is on the loan.”
Ball works as a sales coordinator for a company that manufactures outdoor equipment. He said he borrowed nearly $40,000 to pay for his political science degree and spent years in the nonprofit sector before changing careers to cover rising costs in Bozeman, where he grew up and would love to be able to buy a house and maybe start a family.
Ball said having to go back to shelling out around $260 a month would be a big setback.
“I drive a 2000 Subaru with 200,000 miles, it’s rusty, and I’m going to put off buying a new car,” Ball said. “Home ownership is not something I really expect to have the opportunity to experience any time soon.”
Biden is expected to announce new steps his administration will take on Friday to protect student borrowers.
“The hypocrisy of elected Republicans is staggering,” Biden said in a statement released by the White House. “They had no problem with billions in pandemic-related loans to businesses – including hundreds of thousands and in some cases millions of dollars for their own businesses. And those loans have been cancelled. But when it came to helping millions of hard-working Americans, they did everything in their power to stop it.
The Higher Education Act allows the Secretary of Education to waive loans without special conditions. It has already been used to cancel student debt, although in limited cases. Last year, the Department of Education canceled $6 billion in loans to defrauded students. In 2019, then-President Donald Trump’s administration eliminated student loan debt for 25,000 disabled veterans.
But relying on the HEA could face obstacles from the same Supreme Court majority. In his 6-3 opinion on Friday, Chief Justice John Roberts include a note on the limits of relief in the Higher Education Act, which he said only affected certain public officials, borrowers who died or became disabled, bankrupt borrowers and those who were defrauded.
The Department for Education announced earlier this month that its three-year moratorium on student loan payments and interest will end in October. The budget deal that Biden signed into the law that lifted the debt ceiling included a provision, which Republicans insisted on, ending the hiatus.
Democrats have said the upcoming expiration is all the more reason for Biden to continue the fight against student loan forgiveness.
“The Biden administration still has legal avenues to provide large-scale student debt cancellation,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (DN.Y.) said in a statement Friday. “With the pause on student loan repayments set to expire in weeks, I call on the administration to do everything in its power to meet the needs of millions of working and middle class Americans struggling with student loan debt.”