Biden is still trying to forgive student debt in 'a very direct confrontation' with Supreme Court, expert says


President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the Supreme Court’s decision on the Administration’s student debt relief program at the White House on June 30, 2023.

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After the Supreme Court struck down the original White House federal student loan forgiveness plan earlier this year, legal historian Noah Rosenblum was struck by President Joe Biden’s response.

As far as Rosenblum could determine, Biden was saying that the justices were wrong in their ruling.

What’s more, the assistant law professor at New York University said, the president announced he would try to pursue the same goal under a different law.

“This is a very direct confrontation with the Court,” Rosenblum wrote at the end of June on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.

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Indeed, just hours after the justices blocked Biden’s plan to cancel up to $20,000 in student debt for tens of millions of Americans, Biden delivered remarks from the White House in which he said that “today’s decision has closed one path. We’re now going to pursue a different path. The exchange has been edited for clarity. “

Annie, what exactly do you find so daring about President Biden’s decision to disagree with the Supreme Court?

Noah Rosenblum :

Mainstream Democrats are generally reticent to criticize Supreme Court policies that are unpopular. The first thing that struck me was the fact that Biden had reacted to the court. Biden’s decision to fight back was equally striking. He did not hide behind legalese that was confusing, but instead he explained the situation clearly and simply. He explained that his administration took democratic action, and the court tried to usurp their power and prevent them from acting. Biden said that it was the court’s fault that Americans did not get the relief his government had sought to give them. And Biden said he would not allow the court to get the last word in expounding the meaning of the law.

AN: Why do you think there’s hesitation to challenge the justices?NR:

It think it is the result of a misreading of the famous events of 1937, in which Franklin Roosevelt positioned himself as an adversary to the court. The court in the early 1930s famously struck down New Deal legislation. Roosevelt responded by threatening to appoint more justices in the event that it didn’t change its course. Roosevelt dropped his plan when the court changed its course. A narrative has spread that Roosevelt’s threats were bad politics. This narrative is wrong, I believe. The threat was effective, even though there are convincing evidences that the court had been changing its mind about New Deal legislation prior to Roosevelt’s threat. Conflict between the Supreme Court, the president, and Supreme Court Justices was not uncommon before Roosevelt. They were seen as important political figures. Charles Evans Hughes, chief justice of the Supreme Court when Roosevelt was elected, had been a Republican candidate for president.

AN: What did you find most surprising about the Supreme Court’s decision on Biden’s forgiveness?NR:

At the end of the day, it was a very narrow ruling. While the case has important consequences for standing doctrine and for the ability to challenge the provision of government benefits, the case swept much less widely than it could have and than many commentators expected.

Biden said he would not allow the court to get the last word.AN: Some legal experts expect Biden’s second attempt to forgive student debt to conclude with another death at the Supreme Court. Do you predict the same?


As a legal matter, I think it should go differently. The new plan has a more complex and lengthy process to forgive debt, but it’s clearer that the Education Secretary can cancel the debt at the end. It is unclear if it will work differently. If the Biden administration can complete its work, then I believe the court will find it much more difficult to strike down Plan B’s forgiveness. The court will likely have several Republican-appointed judges who will attempt to invalidate any actions taken by the administration. And we have to remember that the conservatives have six votes at the moment and have been willing to ignore long-settled legal principles to achieve Republican policy priorities.

AN: Why do you think there’s so much pressure on the government to address student debt?NR:

For many years, policy relied on increasing access to higher education as a path to economic mobility and ignored that growing inequality. This policy is now reaping the terrible consequences. In a society that is as unequal as ours, having a college education no longer guarantees a stable financial future. The unfair economic system has left many Americans with thousands of dollars in debt, and they are unable to pay them back. They also cannot achieve the economic mobility that they were promised. Student loan debt is in crisis just as many other aspects of our economy, such as housing and health care, are in crisis.