The US Supreme Court’s conservative majority cast doubt on President
As the court heard two cases Tuesday, Justice
“Some of the biggest mistakes in the court’s history were deferring to assertions of executive emergency power,” Kavanaugh said. “Some of the finest moments in the court’s history were pushing back against presidential assertions of emergency powers.”
“We’re talking about half a trillion dollars and 43 million Americans. How does that fit under the normal understanding of modifying?” Roberts said, referring to a key word in the 2003 law at the center of the case.
The law, known as the Heroes Act, says the secretary can “waive or modify” provisions to ensure that debtors “are not placed in a worse position financially” because of a national emergency.
Roberts likened the case to the court’s 5-4
The student loan plan would forgive as much as $20,000 in federal loans for certain borrowers making less than $125,000 per year, $250,000 for households. The Congressional Budget Office
“I think it is precisely the type of context where the executive should be able to implement those emergency powers,” she said.
She drew some support from the court’s liberal wing. Justice
“Many of them don’t have assets sufficient to bail them out after the pandemic,” Sotomayor said. “They don’t have friends or families or others who can help them make these payments.”
The court heard two challenges, one filed by a group of Republican-run states and another pressed by a conservative advocacy group known as the Job Creators Network on behalf two borrowers who say they are being unfairly excluded from the program’s full scope.
The arguments took place as more than 100 supporters of Biden’s plan, including members of Congress, held a demonstration outside the court.
Nebraska Solicitor General James Campbell said Biden was “creating a brand new program, and that’s not within the language of the statute.”
The conservative-controlled Supreme Court has already stopped Biden from blocking
Those rulings are now key precedents in the student loan case. The majority in those cases established the “major-questions doctrine” as a powerful curb on federal regulators, saying the president needs clear congressional authorization before taking actions that have sweeping political and economic significance.
That distinction “seems to presume that, when it comes to the administration of benefits programs, a trillion dollars here, a trillion dollars there, it doesn’t really make that much difference to Congress,” Alito said. “That doesn’t seem very sensible.”
Standing to Sue
The biggest issue for opponents has been establishing standing to sue — that is, showing they are being directly harmed by the policy. A federal appeals court said the states had standing because of the impact on the Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority, a state-created loan servicer that could lose many of its accounts.
MOHELA, which isn’t involved in the case, by law must contribute to a fund Missouri uses to pay for projects at public colleges.
Of the six conservatives, only Justice
Barrett questioned Campbell’s argument that MOHELA is an arm of the Missouri government, pointing to the loan server’s lack of involvement. “If MOHELA is an arm of the state, why didn’t you just strong-arm MOHELA and say, ‘You’ve got to pursue this suit’?” Barrett asked.
Alito was more skeptical of Prelogar’s argument that Missouri and MOHELA should be considered separate entities.
“I understand a big thrust of your argument to be that Missouri lacks standing because MOHELA separately incorporated,” he said. “But why should that formal distinction govern the determination of injury in fact?”
The cases are Biden v. Nebraska, 22-506, and Department of Education v. Brown, 22-535.
(Updates with additional comments from Kagan, Alito starting in 11th paragraph.)
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