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Supreme Court Cites Pelosi’s Words In Decision Striking Down Biden’s Student Loan Program

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OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.


The words of former House Speaker and California Democrat Rep. Nancy Pelosi have come back to haunt President Joe Biden.

The Supreme Court released its final decisions of the term Friday morning, handing down its highly-anticipated ruling on President Joe Biden’s student debt relief. The nation’s highest court weighed the Biden administration’s plan to erase up to $10,000 in federal student loan debt for borrowers and up to $20,000 for recipients of Pell Grants.

In the Dept. of Education v. Brown, the Court ruled 9-0 that they do not have standing and tossed the lawsuit. This involves individual borrowers. In Biden v. Nebraska, the justices ruled 6-3 against it. Biden’s debt-forgiveness program has been shut down.

In his opinion, conservative Chief Justice John Roberts cited a previous argument made by former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

It came from a talk Rep. Pelosi was having with reporters during a press conference on July 28, 2021 when she admitted that the president did not have the authority to cancel student debt.

“People think that the President of the United States has the power for debt forgiveness. He does not,” she said. “He can postpone. He can delay. But he does not have that power. That has to be an act of Congress.”

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Months later she said she supported his plan.

.@POTUS’ bold action is a strong step in Democrats’ fight to expand access to higher education. By delivering historic targeted student debt relief to millions of borrowers, more working families will be able to meet their kitchen table needs as they recover from the pandemic, she said.

On Friday, in a 6 – 3 opinion the Supreme Court ruled that the president cannot unilaterally cancel student loans or any amount of student loans.

“The Supreme Court blocked the Biden administration’s student loan forgiveness plan on Friday, invalidating a program aimed at delivering up to $20,000 of relief to millions of borrowers struggling with outstanding debt in the aftermath of Covid,” CNN reported.

A source within the White House said that while “we strongly disagree with the court, we prepared for this scenario.”

“President Biden will be announcing new actions to try protect student borrowers a little bit later today,” a source told CNN.

In March it was reported that at least one Justice did not appear to be a fan of the plan.

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas pushed back on assertions made by the Biden administration that the president’s decision to forgive some student loan debt is constitutionally and legally acceptable.

The justices listened to arguments in two cases concerning President Biden’s student loan forgiveness program. The first case, Biden v Nebraska, involved six Republican attorneys general who contended that the program is an overreach by the president.

U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar, arguing on behalf of the administration, stated that if the pause on payments is allowed to end without a plan in place, “it’s undisputed that defaults and delinquencies will surge above pre-pandemic levels.”

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“The states ask this court to deny that vital relief to millions of Americans, but they lacked standing to seek that result,” she also said, according to The Post Millennial.

She further argued that “the states say the act doesn’t authorize the [Education] secretary to ever forgive loan principal. But the secretary’s interpretation of this text is not just a plausible reading, it’s the best reading. Congress expressly authorized the secretary to waive or modify any title for provision in emergencies to provide financial relief to borrowers.”

But Thomas was unconvinced, asking if a waiver or modification could equate to the cancellation of student loans. In response, Prelogar pointed out that the HEROES Act, implemented after 9/11, grants the education secretary certain measures that could be implemented during a national emergency, according to The Post Millennial. But critics like Thomas say that the HEROES Act was specific to emergencies arising from the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, not a pandemic two decades later.

Thomas pressed Prelogar to clarify the distinction between the cancellation of student loan debt and grants that Congress is responsible for appropriating.

“There’s some discussion in the briefs …. that this is in effect a cancellation of a debt, that’s really what we’re talking about, and that as a cancellation of $400 billion in debt, in effect this is a grant of $400 billion and it runs headlong into Congress’ appropriations authority,” he said.

She responded that the student loan program “doesn’t require any money be drawn from the Treasury, and so I don’t think that it strictly raises an appropriations issue.”

Prior to Justice Thomas’ questions, President Biden expressed some doubt that his student loan giveaway would pass muster with the high court’s 6-3 conservative majority. Biden said outside the White House he’s “confident we’re on the right side of the law, but I’m not confident about the outcome of the decision yet,” according to a White House pool report.

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