Supreme Court Signals It's Skeptical Biden's Student-Loan Plan Is Legal

The US Supreme Court’s conservative majority cast doubt on President Joe Biden’s plan to slash the student debt of more than 40 million people, imperiling one of his signature initiatives in a high-stakes showdown over presidential power.

As the court heard two cases Tuesday, Justice Brett Kavanaugh suggested he is wary of expanding presidential powers during national emergencies. The Biden administration argues that the student loan forgiveness program is a response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Some of the biggest mistakes in the court’s history were deferring to assertions of executive emergency power,” Kavanaugh said. “Some of the finest moments in the court’s history were pushing back against presidential assertions of emergency powers.”

Chief Justice John Roberts suggested Congress didn’t authorize the president to unilaterally take a step with such enormous financial implications for millions of Americans.

“We’re talking about half a trillion dollars and 43 million Americans. How does that fit under the normal understanding of modifying?” Roberts said, referring to a key word in the 2003 law at the center of the case.

The law, known as the Heroes Act, says the secretary can “waive or modify” provisions to ensure that debtors “are not placed in a worse position financially” because of a national emergency.