WASHINGTON -- President Biden's ambitious proposal of $400 billion to forgive student loans for 40 million Americans could be the latest victim in a legal battle with the Supreme Court about the president's powers.
On Tuesday, conservative justices at the court indicated that they were skeptical that Mr. Biden would be able to erase so much student debt. Many justices stated that they believe a program that is so costly and so detrimental to so many should have been approved more clearly by Congress.
This was not the first time that the court suggested Mr. Biden had overstepped his authority. However, the case could have the potential to stop Mr. Biden from pursuing his ambitions as the newly empowered Republicans in Congress vow to block him every move.
The court blocked Mr. Biden from enacting key components of his agenda during his first two years as president. These included sweeping measures to combat climate change, large-scale vaccine requirements for large companies, and a ban against evictions during the pandemic.
The conservative majority of the court ruled that the president must have clear congressional approval in order to pursue major policy decisions.
Millions of borrowers have had to struggle to repay their student loans and will be affected by the court's decision to also block the program.
It will also set new legal precedents that could potentially define new limits to presidential power.
This ruling could also have broad political implications. It forces Mr. Biden's allies to restructure their efforts to court young people, one of the most important constituencies of the Democratic Party ahead of the 2024 election.
Instead, the president might have to address voters with a different message. He may tell them that, despite his best efforts at student debt relief, he was defeated by Republicans who blocked his Supreme Court policy.
When asked Wednesday if he was certain that the court would decide in favor of the administration, Mr. Biden replied: "I'm confident that we're on right side law. I am not yet certain about the outcome.
The White House does not concede defeat. Lawyers for Mr. Biden's government argued in court Tuesday that Congress had already granted the secretary of education authority to forgive student debt.
However, Mr. Biden's staff has already demonstrated its willingness to use this issue for political gain, even though it can only blame Republicans for stopping the plan.
Miguel A. Cardona (the secretary of education) sent Tuesday's email to the tens of million Americans who signed up for relief.
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"While the opponents of this program would deny relief for tens of million of working-and middle-class Americans," Mr. Cardona wrote in an email that he was fighting for relief to borrowers who are struggling to get back on their feet following the economic crisis caused the pandemic.
The court can block the program. However, the administration may continue to use the email address to communicate with millions more voters about the reasons they aren't getting the relief Mr. Biden promised.
Max Lubin, chief executive of Rise, which has supported student debt relief, stated that the president has a strong argument to make if Republicans block his debt relief plan.
He suggested that the White House could communicate to him that there is an alternative and that they have his back.
Mr. Lubin said, "I think that's an extremely powerful message to send 25-year-olds."
When he made his announcement last summer, Mr. Biden stated that student loan forgiveness was crucial because "an entire generation now saddled with unsustainable loans in exchange for an effort, at minimum, at a college education."
However, without a strong congressional majority, the president has resorted to executive action repeatedly, provoking legal objections from Republican opponents.
These objections made it to the Supreme Court, which now has six conservative justices and three of them liberal. This has resulted in the president losing several important cases.
As Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. stated during Tuesday's arguments, the root of the conflict between the Biden administration and the Supreme Court is a case in the Supreme Court that ruled against President Donald J. Trump.
Liberals urged the Supreme Court in 2020 to stop Mr. Trump's abrupt end of an Obama-era program that had protected 700,000 young immigrants against immediate deportation. It was this 2012 case.
He said, "The case reminds of one we had years ago when the administration tried to act on its own to cancel Dreamers' program." "And I wonder if you wouldn't recognize that this case raises important, serious questions about Congress' role in light of its historical concern about the separation power.
The case was decided in a 5-to-4 vote. Justice Clarence Thomas joined the four-member liberal wings to form a majority. Justice Clarence Thomas, in dissent, predicted that future administrations would encounter similar legal obstacles.
He wrote, "It has given green light," to the court. "For future political battles to take place in this court instead of where they belong -- the political branches."
Justice Thomas' prediction was correct, as Mr. Biden's struggles in the last two years -- which includes this week's student loans case -- show. The court has now rejected Mr. Trump's 2020 executive authority and is doing the same thing for Mr. Biden.
The track record of the administration has been mixed.
The justices ruled that Title 42, a health measure that was implemented to prevent the spread of pandemics at the southern border and restricted entry, should be temporarily retained. The court decided that the Trump-era immigration program, which forced some asylum seekers to wait for approval in Mexico, could be repealed by the administration.
In a small victory for Mr. Biden's cause, the court allowed a less restrictive mandate that required health care workers in facilities receiving federal funds to be vaccinated.
On Tuesday, the majority of the justices in the case concerning student loans were ready to limit the extent to which Mr. Biden can respond to the effects of the pandemic. The issue is the use by Mr. Biden of a law that allows student loan waivers in national emergencies.
Court observers believe that the president can still win the case on technical grounds, if the justices rule that the plaintiffs -- two student loan borrowers and Republican state attorneys general -- don't have the right standing to sue.
Karine Jean-Pierre was the White House press secretary and refused to provide a backup plan in the event of a loss.
She stated to reporters that she did not have another plan. This is our plan. This is it. We believe we have the legal authority. We took it to the Supreme Court, which is the highest court in the country. We're going on to continue fighting."