(WFLA/NBC) — The Supreme Court will hear two cases Tuesday challenging President Joe Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan.
The plan would forgive up to $20,000 in debt for more than 40 million Americans.
According to NBC, one case was brought by six Republican-led states that say they would be harmed financially if the forgiveness program goes into effect. The other case was brought by two borrowers in texas who don’t fully qualify for debt forgiveness under the program.
The key legal question in the cases before the Supreme Court Tuesday is whether the Higher Education Relief Opportunities for Students Act of 2003, known as the HEROES Act, grants the executive branch an emergency power to implement Biden’s student loan forgiveness program.
The HEROES Act, which was passed in the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, grants the secretary of education the power to “waive or modify” a federal student loan program in order to ensure that individuals “are not placed in a worse position financially” because of “a war or other military operation or national emergency.”
Lawyers for the Biden administration argue that this provision gives the secretary of education the authority to cancel federal student loan debt so that borrowers are not made worse off with respect to their loans by the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
They cite data that shows borrowers who previously had their payments paused due to an emergency like a hurricane were at a higher risk of default after the pause expired.
But plaintiffs argue the Biden administration is abusing its power and using the pandemic as a pretext for fulfilling the president’s campaign pledge to cancel student debt.
“Many people will tune in expecting to see a debate on whether the law allows President Biden to forgive all this student loan debt, I think what they will see is a debate between the lawyers and the justices on whether we have the appropriate plaintiffs in the case and the reason behind that is that the states that are suing will have a hard time explaining what about student loan forgiveness hurts the state,” said Stetson Law Professor Louis Virelli III. “When the court hears a case, it is resolving an actual dispute. The court’s job is to pick winners and resolve disputes and in the process to make statements about the law. Here, if we have the wrong plaintiffs, we have plaintiffs that weren’t really harmed.”
The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments Tuesday at 10 a.m. A decision is not expected for months. The court usually issues all of its decisions by the end of its session in June.