Congressional Republicans were quick to praise the Supreme Court’s conservative majority on Friday for striking down President Biden’s plan to forgive roughly $400 billion in student loan debt, affirming that it was an “unconstitutional” move.
“Not only was President Biden’s budget-busting student loan bailout fundamentally unfair, now it has been found unconstitutional,” Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-SD) said in a statement.
“Instead of putting together a real plan to lower the costs of higher education, President Biden put forward an unserious scheme to force 87[%] of Americans who do not have student loan debt to bear the costs of the 13[%] of Americans who do,” Thune went on.
“Anyone frustrated by today’s decision should direct their complaints to the White House, where they knew this executive order would likely be struck down by the courts but did nothing whatsoever to meaningfully address exorbitant costs in higher education,” he added.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) echoed Thune’s remarks, saying the ruling was in line with the debt ceiling legislation he recently negotiated with the White House, which ended a pandemic-era payment pause for student loans.
“President Biden’s student loan giveaway is ruled UNLAWFUL. The 87% of Americans without student loans are no longer forced to pay for the 13% who do,” McCarthy tweeted. “This builds on the Fiscal Responsibility Act’s end to the payment pause. The President must follow the law.”
The speaker also highlighted that the court’s 6-3 majority opinion, authored by Chief Justice John Roberts, quoted McCarthy’s predecessor, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (R-Calif.), in making its case to overturn the debt cancellation.
“The Court called out Pelosi in its decision: ‘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,’” McCarthy added, referring to remarks Pelosi made in a 2021 press conference. “I agree with her for once!”
Roberts argued that neither Biden nor Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona had the authority “to release 43 million borrowers from their obligations to repay $430 billion in student loans” because they lacked “clear congressional authorization” to do so.
Biden’s plan used a 2003 law passed to aid veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars as a pretext to forgive up to $10,000 in federal student debt for Americans earning under $125,000 and households making under $250,000. Pell Grant recipients were eligible for up to $20,000 in loan forgiveness.
The Department of Education argued that the national emergency status of the pandemic made the loan forgiveness necessary, despite the Biden administration ending its COVID-19 emergency declarations on May 11.
The White House in February said around 16 million people had been approved for debt forgiveness of the total 26 million who had applied.
GOP lawmakers had long criticized the move as a bailout for wealthy and well-educated Americans, many of whom were in debt for postgraduate degrees.
The costs of the handout also would have fallen disproportionately on less-educated voters, according to Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.).
“President Biden’s student loan scheme does not ‘forgive’ debt, but unfairly transfers the burden from those who willingly took out loans onto those who chose not to attend college or already fulfilled their commitment to pay off their loans,” Cassidy, who serves as ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said in a statement.
Six GOP-led states — Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and South Carolina — brought the case before the high court.
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