White House advances student loan forgiveness in wake of SCOTUS ruling

President Joe Biden promised on Friday that his administration would continue to seek cancellation of student loans following a Supreme Court ruling invalidating his proposal to cancel student loans owed to the federal government.

In a speech at the White House on Friday afternoon, Biden said he “will not stop fighting to provide borrowers with what they need, especially those at the bottom of the economic ladder.” and would use the Higher Education Act to allow the Department of Education to release and waive loans. Biden also said the administration would create a “gradual repayment program” to help borrowers who are struggling to repay their loans when payments resume this fall.

Biden also criticized Republicans for what he called their “hypocrisy” and said the Supreme Court “misinterpreted the Constitution” in ruling against his debt relief plan.

The Supreme Court on Friday struck down Biden’s plan to write off up to $20,000 in student debt per person owed to the federal government, ruling in a 6-3 decision along ideological lines that the president could not use the emergency “waiver” powers related to the Covid-19 pandemic to implement massive debt forgiveness. The Biden administration had used the HEROES Act, a bill passed in 2003 in the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, which gives the Department of Education special powers to modify typical federal student loan rules to meet to a national emergency. .

The HEROES Act, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in an opinion with the other five conservative justices, “permits the secretary to ‘waive or vary’ existing statutes or regulations” but not to ‘rewrite’ federal law on student loans’ from the ground. Roberts further said the plan extends the pandemic emergency measure well beyond its logical limits.

In her dissenting opinion, Judge Elena Kagan argued that the majority had overstepped the mark and inserted themselves into the political process. “The Court refuses to recognize the clear words of the HEROES Act” and “refuses to respect Congress’s decision to give sweeping emergency powers to the” Secretary of Education, Kagan wrote, leaving the Secretary of Education “helpless” accordingly.

The decision on the president’s debt cancellation plan represents a political defeat for Biden, who ran on a promise to relieve Americans with large student loan debt. It also compounds the time crunch for the administration, which faces an impending deadline this fall when student loan repayments, which have been on hold since the pandemic began in March 2020, are expected to resume.

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