Rebuking Biden’s Debt Cancellation Program, Congressional Republicans File Amicus Briefs With SCOTUS

By Hugh T. Ferguson, NASFAA Managing Editor

Republicans have filed a pair of amicus briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court in an effort to detail the ways in which President Joe Biden’s student loan debt cancellation program would be an overreach of executive authority.

Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) committee, signed onto an amicus brief, along with over 40 of his colleagues, arguing that the president’s move would circumvent congressional authority.

“President Biden’s student loan schemes do not ‘forgive’ student debt, but transfers it onto Americans who chose not to go to college or worked hard to pay off their loans,” Cassidy said. “These policies are a clear overreach of President Biden’s authority and unconstitutional.”

House Republicans have also filed their own amicus brief, with signatures gathered from 128 of the caucus’ 222 members.

Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), chairwoman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, signed onto the brief and — in similar fashion to the Senate’s filing — argued that the administration’s interpretation of the Higher Education Relief Opportunities for Students Act of 2003 (HEROES Act), which is being used as justification for the program, is a violation of the law.

“The Biden administration’s student loan bailout is a political gambit engineered by special interest groups; abusing the HEROES Act for such a ploy is shameful,” Foxx said. “Congress is the only body with the authority to enact sweeping and fundamental changes of this nature, and it is ludicrous for President Biden to assume he can simply bypass the will of the American people.”

Since the start of the new congressional session, Foxx and Cassidy have been ramping up pressure on the Biden administration’s moves to rework the student loan portfolio. Most recently the leaders took issue with the timeframe and costs associated with the Department of Education’s (ED) draft income-driven repayment (IDR) regulations.

In contrast to the arguments presented by congressional Republicans, separate legal filings made in January by a coalition of states, experts, and advocates offered support of Biden's student loan cancellation program.

In response to the arguments circulated in January, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said that the broad array of organizations supporting the program "reflects the strength of our legal positions versus the fundamentally flawed lawsuits aimed at denying millions of working and middle-class borrowers debt relief."

The administration has argued since announcing its debt cancellation plans that it is operating within the scope of the law and has the authority to carry out the program.

The administration has also said that its plan to end the ongoing emergency declarations on May 11, 2023 would not prohibit ED from carrying out debt cancellation or its planned sunset of the ongoing federal student loan payment pause, since the relief is tied to when the emergency declaration was in effect.

The Supreme Court is expected to hear arguments over the student loan debt cancellation program on February 28.


Publication Date: 2/8/2023

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