(Ben Sellers, Headline USA) In a long-anticipated smackdown to the student-loan amnesty program that President Joe Biden used as a blatant attempt to pander to Gen.-Z voters ahead of the 2022 midterms, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Biden adminstration lacked the authority to unilaterally wipe away borrowers’ debt—thereby assuming its cost on behalf of all taxpayers—for their own political benefit.
In a pair of rulings—the Department of Education v. Brown and Biden v. Nebraska—the court’s majority determined that Biden’s Education Department overstepped the bounds of the HEROES Act, a post-Sept. 11 law that had provided for debt-forgiveness to “alleviate hardship” in time of national emergency by allowing the DOE to bypass certain administrative procedures for loan repayment.
Congress had unilaterally passed the 2003 law with troops in mind as the terrorists attacks on American soil compelled some to defer their educational pursuits and early careers in order to serve their country.
However, several plaintiffs emerged following the announcement last year by Biden and Education Secretary Miguel Cardona that they would use the plan to wipe away up to $20,000 in debt from individual borrowers under the auspices of the COVID-19 pandemic, without applying the narrow set of parameters and procedures that were implied by the law’s passage.
“The Secretary’s comprehensive debt cancellation plan cannot fairly be called a waiver—it not only nullifies existing provisions, but augments and expands them dramatically,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion for Biden v. Nebraska.
Both states and individual borrowers, such as plaintiffs Myra Brown and Alexander Taylor, said they would be harmed by the decision.
Brown and Taylor—both borrowers who were ineligible for the maximum amount due to the arbitrary and capricious standards set by the DOE—said Cardona was legally obligated to undergo a public comment period, which he had failed to do before implementing the plan.
“Because the Department did not engage in negotiated rule-making or notice and comment … Brown and Taylor had no formal opportunity to voice their views on the Plan prior to its adoption,” wrote Justice Samuel Alito in his majority opinion.
In the Nebraska suit, the Cornhusker State was joined by five others who had argued that Cardona exceeded his statutory authority, and that the federal amnesty programs would impact their own public loan-servicing entities, such as Missouri’s MOHELA, which contracted with the federal government on the loan debts with the understanding that they would be the beneficiaries of future interest payments.
“Under the Secretary’s plan, roughly half of all federal borrowers would have their loans completely discharged,” Roberts wrote in the majority opinion.
“MOHELA could no longer service those closed accounts, costing it, by Missouri’s estimate, $44 million a year in fees that it otherwise would have earned under its contract with the Department of Education,” he continued. “This financial harm is an injury in fact directly traceable to the Secretary’s plan, as both the Government and the dissent concede.”
Roberts further argued that Cardona had overstepped the limits of his authority under the HEROES act, saying he had only the authority to “waive or modify” the provisions, “not to rewrite that statute from the ground up” in order to cancel $430 billion in student-loan principal.
He accused the Biden administration of distorting a mundane provision that related to its duty to publish notice in the Federal Register, and instead using that to interpret sweeping new powers for itself.
“The provision is no more than it appears to be: a humdrum reporting requirement,” Roberts wrote. “Rather than implicitly granting the Secretary authority to draft new substantive statutory provisions at will, it simply imposes the obligation to report any waivers and modifications he has made.”
Acknowledging a dissent from Justice Elena Kagan, Roberts lamented that the court’s far-left arm had turned inward on the court itself by echoing political talking points that the conservative majority was overstepping its judicial role.
Roberts said the student-loan cases reflected a clear-cut violation of the law and that if Democrats hoped to effect such a policy change they would have to do so through the proper channel: by having Congress pass new legislation permitting loan amnesty.
“[O]ur precedent—old and new—requires that Congress speak clearly before a Department Secretary can unilaterally alter large sections of the American economy. We have employed the traditional tools of judicial decisionmaking in doing so,” Roberts wrote.
“Reasonable minds may disagree with our analysis—in fact, at least three do,” he continued. “We do not mistake this plainly heartfelt disagreement for disparagement. It is important that the public not be misled either. Any such misperception would be harmful to this institution and our country.”
The ruling—one of the last to come in the court’s current session before it adjourns for the summer—came just a day after a landmark decision in two separate cases effectively ended affirmative action at colleges and universities.
Shortly after the decision was announced on Thursday, the court grounds were evacuated following the appearance of a suspicious package.
And they just evacuated everybody from the sidewalk in front of the Supreme Court pic.twitter.com/7ntpNekIsb
— Sam Lisker (@slisker) June 29, 2023
It was the latest in a growing line of terroristic threats and political attacks against the court that have been tacitly—and sometimes overtly—embraced by powerful Democrat leaders such as Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, who last year threatened two justices by name on the steps of the court while hoping to influence the outcome of a case.
Democrats also have floated the possibility of packing the court with leftist justices and have orchestrated a well-financed smear campaign to accuse at least three conservative justices of ethical violations for failing to report business transactions and vacation trips paid for by wealthy friends and associates.
The jurists have argued that the court’s ethical guidelines for reporting did not require that they do so and that no cases have come before the court requiring their recusal in matters directly related to the acquaintances in question.
Ben Sellers is the editor of Headline USA. Follow him at twitter.com/realbensellers.