Today at the Supreme Court: Biden’s Student Loan Cancellation Plan on Trial
The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments today in a pair of cases that ask fundamental questions about the scope of executive power while simultaneously testing the legality of one of President Joe Biden’s signature political acts.
The cases are Biden v. Nebraska and Department of Education v. Brown. Both center on Biden’s 2022 use of executive authority to cancel up to $10,000 in student loan debt for every borrower who earns less than $125,000 a year while canceling up to $20,000 for every borrower who took out a Pell Grant and earns less than $125,000 a year.
The Biden administration argues that it has the power to take such action under the terms of the Higher Education Relief Opportunities for Students (HEROES) Act of 2003, which allows the secretary of education to “waive or modify any statutory or regulatory provision applicable to the student financial assistance programs under title IV of the [Higher Education] Act as the Secretary [of Education] deems necessary in connection with a war or other military operation or national emergency.” According to the Biden administration’s brief to the justices, “the plan falls squarely within the plain text of the HEROES Act; indeed, a central purpose of the statute is to authorize the Secretary to grant student-loan-related relief to at-risk borrowers because of a national emergency—precisely what the Secretary did here.”
To prevail, the parties challenging Biden’s executive action need to clear two distinct legal hurdles. First, they must prove that they have “standing” to sue in the first place. And that is not always such an easy thing to prove. The Supreme Court has repeatedly said that aggrieved taxpayers alone do not, as a general rule, have standing to sue the government over allegedly illegal laws. The Court reaffirmed this in Hein v. Freedom From Religion Foundation (2007), in which a gro
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