The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday over on the legality of President Joe Biden's plan to forgive more than 40 million borrowers around $400 billion in student loan obligations, provided they meet certain conditions.
The Biden administration claims the president has the authority to do so under the Higher Education Relief Opportunities For Students, or HEROES, Act of 2003, passed in the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. It allows waivers or relief from student loan debt "in connection with a war or other military operation or national emergency."
President Donald Trump declared the U.S. under a state of national emergency in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The emergency declaration is still in force. a President Biden says that's all the authority he needs.
But six GOP-led states -- including Arkansas -- and two borrowers who didn't meet all the qualifications for loan forgiveness filed suit saying that's nonsense and that President Biden is abusing his power under the emergency. They argue only Congress can make such a huge financial commitment.
The court's conservative wing seemed receptive to that argument in their questions. Whether that indicates a final ruling is anyone's guess.
Because there were also questions from both the conservative and liberal wings of the court as to whether the states have any standing to sue at all. If the justices can't get around that, it could throw a monkey wrench in the whole works.
More than 26 million Americans have already applied for student loan forgiveness under President Biden's plan. About 16 million have been approved. Now they have to wait and see what the nation's highest court decides.