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‘Reprehensible.' Congress skewers Biden education chief for email to students attacking SCOTUS

Biden unveiled a student loan forgiveness 2.0 plan on Friday in an apparent attempt to dodge the Supreme Court's June decision.

Published: July 17, 2023 11:10pm

Updated: July 18, 2023 9:21am

President Joe Biden's education chief sent a mass email to student loan borrowers claiming the Supreme Court erred in striking down the cancellation of their debt, a fresh attack on the integrity of the justices that generated an instant rebuke from Congress.

"We believe the Supreme Court got it wrong," Education Secretary Miguel Cardona wrote in the email, which was sent to Just the News by several borrowers who received it over the last few days. 

The department is "taking action aimed at opening an alternative path to debt relief for working and middle-class borrowers," Cardona added in the email. "We started the process to provide relief to as many people as we can, as fast as we can, through the rule-making process."

Members of Congress told Just the News on Monday they found Cardona's email to be an inappropriate attack on the legitimacy of the nation's highest court.

"It's reprehensible number one. I mean, this flies in the face of the Supreme Court ruling," Rep. Lisa McClain, R-Mich., a member of the House Education Committee, told the Just the News, No Noise television show Monday night.

"This is the Supreme Court, the law of the land, and you have Secretary Cardona who says 'Man, don't worry about the Supreme Court. Really the only voice of reason, the only voice that really matters is mine. I mean, at the end of the day, who does this? Who does this guy think he is?" she said. "I mean, we have three co-equal branches of government for a reason. It's the Supreme Court's job to interpret the law, not Cardona's. So stay in your lane."

Georgia Republican Rep. Austin Scott condemned what he said was disrespect for the Supreme Court, saying Biden effectively reneged on the debt limit deal with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy by claiming he was resuming student loan payments then abruptly offering a new plan to forgive the debt.

Biden's actions, Scott told the John Solomon Reports podcast, "is just proof that there's an intent to mislead from the administration as much as there is a lack of respect for the Supreme Court."

Biden’s student loan "relief" pledge dates to his 2020 campaign, when he called for "a minimum of $10,000/person" of federal student debt to be wiped out, and was likely a motivating factor for young voters, who showed up in droves for Biden in the 2020 election. The 6-3 ruling by the justices late last month negated the plan as unconstitutional.

After the court decision, Cardona emailed borrowers that his agency was employing "every tool" possible to "provide debt relief to borrowers" in spite of the ruling.

The alternative path in question is a plan announced Friday to cancel $39 billion in student loans for 804,000 borrowers on the grounds that payments made under  income-driven repayment (IDR) plans "should have moved borrowers closer to forgiveness" but "were not accounted for," according to the Education Department.

Biden, writing in a Friday press release, said the plan goes into effect immediately.

"Starting today, over 800,000 student loan borrowers who have been repaying their loans for 20 years or more will see $39 billion of their loans discharged," he stated. "When the Supreme Court made the wrong decision, I immediately announced a new plan to open an alternative path to relief for as many borrowers as possible, as soon as possible."

Defense of Freedom Institute President, Bib Eitel, also told Just The News Sec. Cardona is "attacking the Supreme Court and the rule of law."

"He doesn’t get to pick and choose which laws he wants to follow."

As did Biden's original student loan relief attempt, the new plan is likely to face legal challenges.

"The Department of Education's attack on the Supreme Court is not founded in law, but in politics," Cornell Law Professor William Jacobson told Just the News. "The Supreme Court correctly decided what was an easy issue, that Joe Biden did not have the power to rewrite legislation."

Jacobson also pointed out that even Democrats like Nancy Pelosi have admitted Biden "does not" possess "the power for debt forgiveness" but can only delay or postpone payments.

Just the News reached out to the Department of Education for comment, but did not receive a reply.

Pelosi’s April 2022 comment was made amid growing frustration that Biden had, to date, failed to produce a plan to forgive student debt like he said he would. One woman who cast her ballot because of the student loan issue described feeling "betrayed" by the President’s lackluster action.

Biden had previously frozen payment deadlines for borrowers several times, but did not unveil a forgiveness plan until last August, which included $10,000–$20,000 of student loan cancellations for up to 43 million borrowers that SCOTUS went on to block.

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