Washington Watch

Tlaib defends Biden student loan scheme, which faces Supreme Court review

Dearborn Democrat has also criticized court for eroding civil rights laws

President Joe Biden’s plan to cancel student loan debt has faced legal challenges from the start. A review of recent court proceedings suggests the U.S. Supreme Court will deem the plan unconstitutional. Even so, the Biden plan has a vocal defender in Michigan’s congressional delegation.

Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Dearborn, took to Twitter to denounce the court and call for debt cancellation.

“This radical right wing Supreme Court cannot continue to push a political agenda and deny 40 million borrowers, including 1,316,000 Michiganders, this life-changing relief,” Tlaib tweeted on Feb. 28.

Tlaib has criticized the court in the past, saying on Feb. 1, “Decades of conservative court rulings continue to chip away at our most critical civil rights laws, and we are witnessing a judicial branch led by a Supreme Court with an increasingly radical right-wing agenda.”

Tlaib repeated the accusation in her Feb. 28 tweet about student debt, saying the court would deny 1.3 million Michigan residents life-changing relief. (Tlaib’s numbers are higher than the White House’s numbers. The White House on Jan. 23 announced that 864,000 Michigan residents had applied for debt cancellation or were “deemed eligible for relief.”)

Many court observers expect the court to strike down the Biden debt-cancellation program. The court will likely release its ruling in May or June.

A majority of the justices appeared unconvinced that Congress intended to give the secretary of education the power to adopt the program,” wrote Amy Howe of SCOTUS Blog, after hearing oral arguments.

Two questions loomed large during the court proceedings of Feb. 28.

A procedural question is whether the plaintiffs in the case, including an independent agency created by the state of Missouri, have the right to sue.

A substantive question is whether the Biden administration is correct in asserting that a federal law known as the 2003 Heroes Act gives it authority to cancel student debt.

The law, which passed the House by a vote of 421-1 and by unanimous consent in the Senate, cites the needs of military personnel as the reason to justify calling on the federal government to waive or modify its student loan programs during an emergency.

Tlaib is not alone in the Michigan delegation in supporting a cancellation of student debt. Support or opposition falls along partisan lines. Rep. Debbie Dingell, a Democrat, issued a statement in August 2022, supporting the plan. Rep. Elissa Slotkin, a Democrat, used a Twitter thread to applaud the cancellation plan but called it a Band-Aid, proposing other changes to the federal loan program.

Rep. Lisa McClain, a Republican, used Twitter to call the plan “another handout from Democrats.” Rep. Tim Walberg, a Republican, condemned the plan as inflationary and politically motivated, according to The Detroit News. Rep. John Moolenaar, also a Republican, issued a press release that cited two Obama administration officials who criticized debt cancellation as inflationary and reckless. Moolenaar added that workers in the skilled trades would shoulder the burden of wealthy individuals who took on college debt.

Rep. Bill Huizenga, a third Republican, has questioned the plan’s constitutionality, according to 9&10 News.

The Biden plan would let individuals with incomes of up to $125,000 (or couples with incomes up to $250,000) obtain debt relief, effectively shifting their burden to all taxpayers. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that 31% of Michigan residents have a bachelor’s degree or higher, and the state’s median household income is $63,202.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.