OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
President Joe Biden’s executive order granting student loan relief to some debt holders ahead of the 2022 election instantly became controversial, and now the nation’s highest court will weigh in. The Supreme Court on Thursday agreed to hear arguments on the legality of Biden’s order, which critics say amounts to an unconstitutional expenditure of hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars that Congress never approved.
“The decision tees up a high-stakes battle at the high court early next year that will decide the fate of Biden’s sweeping plan to provide up to $20,000 of debt relief to tens of millions of Americans who owe federal student loans,” Politico reported.
“The court on Thursday deferred a ruling on the administration’s emergency request to immediately reinstate its debt relief program. Instead, the court said, the justices will hear arguments on the matter next year,” the outlet continued.
Politico went on to report that putting the case on the current docket means that a decision will come by next June, if not sooner, adding:
The case that the justices have agreed to hear involves a challenge from six Republican-led states: Nebraska, Missouri, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, and South Carolina. The states argue the debt relief plan will reduce tax revenues or other funding that is related to state-related entities that own, manage or invest in federal student loans. The Supreme Court said it would address two questions: whether the Republican attorneys general have standing to bring the case in the first place and “whether the plan exceeds the Secretary’s statutory authority or is arbitrary and capricious.”
“Biden announced the program in August. He relied on the Higher Education Relief Opportunities for Students Act of 2003 (known as the HEROES Act), a law passed in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks that allows the federal government to make changes to student-loan programs to respond to national emergencies,” noted SCOTUS Blog in a Thursday post after the justices agreed to take the case.
The blog noted further that U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar argued before the high court Nov. 18 that “Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona clearly has the power to implement the program: The HEROES Act was enacted precisely to give the secretary of education the authority to grant student-loan relief in the case of a national emergency – such as the COVID-19 crisis.”
Critics, however, argue that the HEROES Act was specific to student loan borrowers in the U.S. military impacted by the then-Global War on Terror and was not intended to be utilized for any other “national emergency.”
Last month, U.S. District Judge Mark Pittman of the District Court in Northern Texas put the giveaway plan on hold, writing, “No one can plausibly deny that it is either one of the largest delegations of legislative power to the executive branch or one of the largest exercises of legislative power without congressional authority in the history of the United States.”
He added: “In this country, we are not ruled by an all-powerful executive with a pen and a phone. Instead, we are ruled by a Constitution that provides for three distinct and independent branches of government.”
“The Court is not blind to the current political division in our country. But it is fundamental to the survival of our Republic that the separation of powers as outlined in our Constitution be preserved. And having interpreted the HEROES Act, the Court holds that it does not provide ‘clear congressional authorization’ for the Program proposed by the Secretary,” he added.
“Whether the Program constitutes good public policy is not the role of this Court to determine. Still, no one can plausibly deny that it is either one of the largest delegations of legislative power to the executive branch, or one of the largest exercises of legislative power without congressional authority in the history of the
United States,” Pittman wrote.
Elaine Parker, President of Job Creators Network Foundation, which brought the lawsuit, praised the ruling.
“The court has correctly ruled in favor of our motion and deemed the Biden student loan program illegal. The judge criticized the Biden Administration program, calling it ‘one of the largest exercises of legislative power without congressional authority in the history of the United States.’ This ruling protects the rule of law which requires all Americans to have their voices heard by their federal government,” Parker said.