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.
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.”
In striking down Biden’s misuse of executive power in forgiving student loans, the Court cites Nancy Pelosi:
“As then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi explained: ‘People think that the President of the United States has the power for debt forgiveness. He does not. He can…
— Kayleigh McEnany (@kayleighmcenany) June 30, 2023
However, Roberts argued the statute does not grant the education secretary the authority to “rewrite that statute from the ground up.”
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.
“People think that the president of the United States has the power for [student loan] debt forgiveness. He does not.” — Nancy Pelosi (July 2021)pic.twitter.com/0iz8uQeKXG
— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) June 30, 2023
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.
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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