Architect of student debt cancellation law tells SCOTUS to revive Relief

  • Former Congressman George Miller, who engineered the law Biden used to cancel student debt, filed a Supreme Court appeal supporting the plan.
  • Miller supported Biden’s request to the court to revive the relief after lower federal courts blocked it.
  • Along with Miller, lawyers, legal experts and economists filed a series of briefs in support of the relief.

One of the lawmakers who crafted the law President Joe Biden used to cancel student debt just told the nation’s highest court why the debt relief shouldn’t be blocked.

On Tuesday, Smita Ghosh, appellate counsel at the Center for Constitutional Accountability, on behalf of former Congressman George Miller — the top Democrat on the House Education Committee who helped create the HEROES Act of 2003 — filed a brief amicus curiae in support of the Biden administration asked to reinstate its student loan forgiveness plan. The law, according to its text, gives the Secretary of Education the ability to cancel or modify student loan balances in connection with a national emergency, such as COVID-19.

After Biden announced up to $20,000 in broad debt relief for federal borrowers in late August, a number of conservative lawsuits arose to block the policy. In the past two weeks, two federal courts have ruled that the debt relief must be blocked — most recently, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the temporary pause it placed on Biden’s debt relief in October must remain in place for indefinitely, in favor of the six Republican-led states that filed the lawsuit and argued that the relief would hurt their states’ tax revenue and exceeded their authority under the Heroes Act.

In response to the 8th Circuit ruling, Biden’s Justice Department on Friday took the matter to the Supreme Court and asked it on appeal to reopen the loan forgiveness, and Miller’s recent court filing supported the administration’s request.

Miller’s filing said, “The Act provides significant authority to the Secretary to ease burdens on borrowers who have been affected by unexpected national emergencies. And that’s exactly what the secretary has done here.” sixth time on Tuesday, no later than June 30.

“As our brief shows, Congress used broad language in the text of the Heroes Act to make clear that the Secretary of Education has broad authority to respond to national emergencies, and the Act’s history confirms that it authorizes sweeping action when circumstances require them,” the filing said. “While the states challenging the debt relief plan may not like it as a matter of policy, their claim that the debt relief plan exceeds the administration’s authority is completely without merit.” The Supreme Court should overturn the ban imposed by the Eighth Circuit.”

Along with Miller, lawyers, legal experts and economists filed a series of briefs with the Supreme Court also expressing support for reviving Biden’s debt relief. Persis Yu, deputy executive director and managing counsel at the Student Borrower Advocacy Center — an advocacy group that leads 21 legal services and attorneys in one of the briefs — said in a statement that “collective friends are on the front lines, helping borrowers survive financial chaos caused by the double whammy of a broken student loan system and the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The Republican-led states that filed the lawsuit blocking the debt relief responded to the Biden administration’s request to the Supreme Court to revive the plan on Wednesday, saying in a filing that the HEROES Act’s “text and context show that its purpose is to keep certain borrowers from falling into a worse financial position with respect to their student loans.”

“Yet the Secretary is using it here to put tens of millions of borrowers in a better position by canceling their loans en masse,” the document continued. “The law does not allow the Secretary to effectively transform federal student loans into grants. It is significant that the Minister has never used the law in this way before.’

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