NAACP, Other Groups to Rally as Supreme Court Tackles Biden’s Promised Student Loan Forgiveness

The NAACP and National Education Association, along with other organizations, are planning to protest outside the Supreme Court on February 28, the day the court is scheduled to hear oral arguments on two lawsuits that are challenging President Joe Biden’s plan to give as much as $20,000 to federal aid borrowers in student loan debt. 

The NAACP’s youth and college director, Wisdom Cole, told The Hill on Wednesday that “generations of people” will make their voices heard by participating in the protest

“The battle to cancel student debt has been a long one,” said Cole. “We know that Biden’s plan is legal: it is supported; it is backed up.”

A news release said among the groups expected to take part in the People’s Rally for Student Debt Cancellation are the Center for Responsible Lending, the American Federation of Teachers, the Student Debt Crisis Center, the National Council of Jewish Women, National Consumer Law Center, National Urban League, and Service Employees International Union.

Due to the Covid pandemic, Congress paused debt repayments on student loans. President Biden’s campaigned on the promise to forgive student loan debt, which led to him presenting a plan in August that would cancel up to $10,000 in federal loan debt and as much as $20,000 for individuals who received Pell Grants, which are given to low-income students. 

As of late November, the Department of Education said more than 26 million people have applied to be considered for debt relief, while 16 million have been approved.

“But court orders are blocking the department from discharging student loan debt and accepting additional applications,” said the department’s news release. 

Republicans argue student debt relief should only happen with congressional approval 

GOP lawmakers have argued relief on the massive scale Biden has proposed should only happen with congressional approval. However, the Biden administration has maintained its authority to use the HEROES Act of 2003 to cancel the debt. 

The act allows the secretary of education to modify or waive balances in connection with a national emergency. 

February 2, an amicus brief filed by the Cato Institute disputed the Biden administration’s claim of control under the HEROES Act and said Congress didn’t give sweeping authority concerning student loan forgiveness. The brief said Congress passed the act to make sure military members could have their student loan payments deferred while serving their country in the Iraq War. 

According to the brief, the Supreme Court earlier struck down “executive actions that were based on novel and expansive readings of long-standing laws,” including the “vaccine or test” mandate by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s eviction moratorium; the greenhouse gas emission restrictions put in place by the Environmental Protection Agency; and mandate by Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

“One common theme of these decisions is particularly relevant here: the court’s justified skepticism of an agency suddenly discovering novel and sweeping powers that it had never claimed before,” read the brief.