Roberts Cites Pelosi To Justify Ending Biden's Student Debt Cancellation Program


Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts cited then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s 2021 remarks in his majority opinion striking down President Joe Biden’s student loan cancellation program.

The Supreme Court ruled 6-3 on Friday that the Biden administration lacked the authority to cancel $430 billion in student loans under the HEROES Act of 2003.

The forgiveness program would have canceled $10,000 in student loan debt for those making less than $125,000 or households with less than $250,000 in income.

Pell Grant recipients, who typically demonstrate more financial need, would have had an additional $10,000 in debt forgiven.

Twenty-six million people had applied for relief and 43 million would have been eligible, the administration said.

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The Court noted that the HEROES Act grants that the secretary of eduction “may waive or modify any statutory or regulatory provision applicable to the student financial assistance programs…as the Secretary deems necessary in connection with a war or other military operation or national emergency.”

However, Roberts argued the statute does not grant the education secretary the authority to “rewrite that statute from the ground up.”

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The chief justice further noted that only a few weeks after the administration announced the cancellation program Biden stated, “The pandemic is over,” meaning the emergency was too.

Roberts contended the question the court had to answer was, “Can the Secretary use his powers to abolish $430 billion in student loans, completely canceling loan balances for 20 million borrowers, as a pandemic winds down to its end?”

“We can’t believe the answer would be yes. Congress did not unanimously pass the HEROES Act with such power in mind. ‘A decision of such magnitude and consequence’  on a matter of  ‘earnest and profound debate across the country’ must ‘res[t] with Congress itself, or an agency acting pursuant to a clear delegation from that representative body,'” he continued, citing the Supreme Court’s decision last summer in West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency.

Roberts next quoted then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi from remarks she made in July 2021 as Biden was being pushed to cancel student loans by executive fiat.

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

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Roberts concluded his majority opinion writing “the words ‘waive or modify’ do not mean ‘completely rewrite’; and that our precedent— old and new—requires that Congress speak clearly before a Department Secretary can unilaterally alter large sections of the American economy.”

Roberts was joined in the ruling by Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett.

Justices Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor, and Ketanji Brown Jackson dissented, arguing that the education secretary did, in fact, have the authority under the HEROES Act to cancel the student debt.

Kagan wrote in her dissent that the majority “overrides the combined judgment of the Legislative and Executive Branches, with the consequence of eliminating loan forgiveness for 43 million Americans.”

Despite her July 2021 remarks, Pelosi took the Court to task Friday for its ruling ending Biden’s debt cancellation program.

“Today, the Republican supermajority on the Supreme Court cruelly denied more than 40 million Americans deeply needed student debt relief.  In doing so, the Court allows a crisis of debt to continue holding back families from buying homes, starting businesses and making ends meet,” Pelosi said in a statement.

“Wrongly, the Majority Opinion in this case ignores the convincing arguments on the President’s legal authority that were made in the last year by the Department of Education and by former House Education Committee Chairman George Miller,” she added.

“President Biden is to be commended for his action to ease the student loan burden, which disproportionately harms women and people of color.  Energized by our commitment to equity, justice and opportunity, the fight is not over.”

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Randy DeSoto has written more than 2,000 articles for The Western Journal since he joined the company in 2015. He is a graduate of West Point and Regent University School of Law. He is the author of the book "We Hold These Truths" and screenwriter of the political documentary "I Want Your Money."
Randy DeSoto is the senior staff writer for The Western Journal. He wrote and was the assistant producer of the documentary film "I Want Your Money" about the perils of Big Government, comparing the presidencies of Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama. Randy is the author of the book "We Hold These Truths," which addresses how leaders have appealed to beliefs found in the Declaration of Independence at defining moments in our nation's history. He has been published in several political sites and newspapers.

Randy graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point with a BS in political science and Regent University School of Law with a juris doctorate.
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
Graduated dean's list from West Point
United States Military Academy at West Point, Regent University School of Law
Books Written
We Hold These Truths
Professional Memberships
Virginia and Pennsylvania state bars
Phoenix, Arizona
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Politics, Entertainment, Faith