In Student Loan Decision, Supreme Court Affirms President’s Power Has Limits

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from Heritage Foundation,

Can limits be found even to an emergency? Can the Constitution’s tripartite division of federal powers withstand the blows and novel respiratory viruses that history lobs at us from time to time? Can they withstand the enterprising legal justifications of an administration that lacks the support of Congress?

Mercifully, the Supreme Court answered “yes” to all the above when it said “no” to the Biden administration’s bid to cancel over $40 billion in federal student loan debt in the waning hours of the COVID-19 pandemic. On Friday, in Biden v. Nebraska, the court held that the administration lacked authority to unilaterally erase millions of student loans.

Per Roberts, cancellation “amounts to nearly one-third of the Government’s $1.7 trillion in annual discretionary spending. There is no serious dispute that the Secretary claims the authority to exercise control over ‘a significant portion of the American economy.’”

No cancellation of this magnitude had ever been set in motion, let alone without any direct input from Congress. Is it plausible that Congress meant to authorize this some 20 years ago when it drafted the phrase “waive or modify”?

As Barrett explained, “commonsense principles of communication” should lead us to answer no because “an initiative of this scope, cost, and political salience is not the type that Congress lightly delegates to an agency.” That is a view we should take seriously. For pretensions to vast power will continue to assert themselves as well-intentioned responses to the next emergency on the horizon.

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