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Supreme Court ‘violated the Constitution’ on debt relief ruling, organizers are ready to battle

By Jake Beardslee · July 6, 2023

Supreme Courtof the United States  Pacamah, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

In a major setback for President Biden’s student debt relief plan, the Supreme Court, led by an ultra-conservative majority, blocked the initiative aimed at canceling up to $20,000 in individual loans. The court’s 6 to 3 decision dealt a blow to the hopes of 40 million qualified borrowers and left them grappling with mounting federal student debt, which surpasses a staggering $400 billion. However, the ruling has sparked a renewed push for alternative measures to alleviate the burden of student debt.

In an interview with Democracy Now!, Astra Taylor, an organizer with the Debt Collective and director of the film You are Not a Loan, criticized the court’s decision as baseless, stating, “This was a baseless lawsuit that absolutely should have been thrown out of court. And in fact, that is exactly what Justice Kagan says in her dissent, which I recommend everybody read.”

Taylor further argued that the court’s decision violated the Constitution and the actions of Congress and the president, saying, “They violated the Constitution in their decision to strike down Biden’s debt relief plan. They arrogated power to themselves and basically said, no, we’re ignoring the laws that Congress has passed.”

She expressed concerns about the major questions doctrine used by the Supreme Court, stating, “They use this to strike down environmental regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency and now to block student debt relief. So it’s a blow, but the silver lining and it’s a small one, but, you know, we have to keep organizing and pushing.”

President Biden remained resolute in his commitment to addressing student debt, announcing an alternative path for relief. Taylor highlighted the urgency, stating, “We need to be on the high ground here. We’ve seen that the Supreme Court is lawless. So what we want to do is be fighting this reactionary court on the higher ground.”

Regarding the alternative approach, Taylor emphasized the use of the Higher Education Act, stating, “We have always been clear that the Higher Education Act grants the president the authority to actually wipe out all student debt immediately… This is something that absolutely can happen quickly.”

Taylor also discussed the impact of the court’s decision on financial companies, particularly private loan servicers, stating, “This is the outcome that private loan servicers were rooting for… Employers were upset with the idea of debt relief because it would give employees a bit more leverage, a bit more freedom.”

Despite the setback, advocates and organizers continue to push for debt cancellation and challenge the court’s perceived autocratic tendencies. Taylor emphasized the importance of securing relief for borrowers, stating, “We just want people to get the relief they are counting on. And we are going to keep pushing the administration to do this the best way possible.”

Light Wave commentary

While the Supreme Court’s decision dealt a blow to debtors and raised concerns about the court’s legitimacy, advocates and organizers remain determined to find alternative solutions and fight for economic justice in addressing the student debt crisis.