Biden, Calling Supreme Court Decision on Student Loans a ‘Mistake,’ Proposes New Basis for Debt Cancellation

‘We need to find a new way and we’re moving as fast as we can,’ President Biden says.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
President Biden and the education secretary, Miguel Cardona, left, at the White House on June 30, 2023. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Following the rejection of one of his signature policy priorities at the hands of the Supreme Court’s conservative majority, President Biden is promising to move forward with a new legal basis for student loan relief programs with all haste. 

Shortly after the 6–3 high court decision that found unconstitutional his unilateral student loan cancellation of up to $20,000 per applicant, Mr. Biden spoke at a press conference from the White House, where he decried the decision but promised to move forward. 

“I believe the court’s decision to strike down my student debt relief program was a mistake,” the president said. “We need to find a new way and we’re moving as fast as we can.”

He then announced that he would employ a federal law, the Higher Education Act of 1965, which would allow the secretary of education, Miguel Cardona, to “compromise, waive, or release loans under certain circumstances.” Mr. Biden added that he has directed his staff to work “as quickly as possible” to forgive student loan debt. 

The president also announced that he will be issuing temporary relief to borrowers by creating what he called a “12-month, on-ramp repayment program” for federal student loans that will allow individuals to ignore monthly payments over the next year if they claim that they are unable to pay.

The president said that the program is designed for those who “might miss payments at the front end” due to budget constraints and are at risk of “delinquency and default.” He did specify, though, that interest will accrue on the loans, unlike with the student loan payment pause that was enacted during the Covid pandemic. 

“Hope on the horizon thanks to the relief that I planned last year, today’s court decision snatches it away” from borrowers, Mr. Biden said as he concluded his remarks. “Today’s decision has closed one path. Now, we’re going to pursue another.”

During a press conference at the White House on Friday evening, the White House press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre, stood alongside Mr. Cardona and the deputy director of the National Economic Council, Bharat Ramamurti, to outline the new student loan relief effort. 

Mr. Cardona decried the “last 48 hours” of Supreme Court action, which saw the end of both race-conscious admissions practices in higher education as well as the end of the student loan relief plan. He noted that the president’s new loan repayment directives included lowering monthly payments for those who make less than $33,000 annually and allowing borrowers to avoid “catastrophic” default. 

Liberal members of Congress were quick to denounce the court’s decision, and even some of the justices themselves. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a longtime supporter of Senator Sanders’s push for total cancellation of all student loan debts, said that the court’s “corruption undercuts its own legitimacy by putting its rulings up for sale.”

Ms. Ocasio-Cortez added that Justice Samuel Alito “accepted tens of thousands of dollars in lavish vacation gifts from a billionaire who lobbied to cancel the student loan forgiveness. After the gifts, Alito voted to overturn.” 

Senator Warren, who lobbied the White House aggressively for years to cancel student loans, lauded the president for his new plan to relieve debt. “President Biden is right to fight back on behalf of working people in need of student debt cancellation,” she wrote on Twitter.

“The law is on his side,” Ms. Warren added. “The President has the clear legal authority to cancel student debt under the Higher Education Act.”

The New York Sun

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