- Sen. Elizabeth Warren said there are other tools to carry out student-debt relief if the Supreme Court strikes it down.
- But she said a Plan B should not be the focus right now, and she supports the legality of Biden’s plan.
- Warren had previously advocated for using the Higher Education Act, instead of the HEROES Act, to cancel student debt.
Elizabeth Warren vows to keep fighting for student-loan forgiveness — but she doesn’t think now is the time to worry about the Supreme Court striking down President Joe Biden’s plan.
In just over a month, the nation’s highest court will hear oral arguments on whether Biden’s plan to cancel up to $20,000 in student debt is legal and should be upheld. After Biden announced the relief at the end of August, two conservative-backed lawsuits blocked its implementation. Both of them argue that the president does not have the authority to enact broad debt relief without Congressional approval.
Massachusetts Sen. Warren, who had previously advocated for $50,000 in student-debt cancellation, said she’s confident Biden’s relief will go through.
“If the Supreme Court applies the law as it is written, then that cancellation will go through. I don’t have any doubt about that. The problem now is, I’m worried about a Supreme Court that is playing politics instead of law,” Warren said during an interview over the weekend with Boston’s GBH News.
“So what are we trying to be able to do instead? And the answer is, I want to say more than anything else, we’re not giving up on this,” Warren continued. “We still have a legislature. We still have other tools at the administrative level. But now is not the time to talk about Plan B, because now is the time to keep banging on the Supreme Court and say, ‘Apply the law as it is written.'”
Warren did not elaborate on other tools to cancel student debt in this particular interview, but in the past, she — along with some other Democratic lawmakers — have called for the administration to use the Higher Education Act of 1965 to get debt relief to millions of borrowers.
Currently, Biden’s plan relies on the HEROES Act of 2003, which gives the Education Secretary the ability to waive or modify student-loan balances in connection with a national emergency. But the lawsuits blocking the relief, and some GOP lawmakers, have claimed Biden cannot continue relying on COVID-19 to cancel student debt, and the Higher Education Act would address that claim because it allows for the modification of student-loan balances without the presence of a national emergency.
In September 2020, the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School even wrote a memo for Warren supporting the usage of the Higher Education Act, saying that the “Secretary has the authority to modify a loan to zero, and exercises this authority even in the absence of any implementing regulations.”
Still, while that option is on the table, the White House said it is not considering that, or anything else at the moment. Bharat Ramamurti, deputy director of the National Economic Council, told reporters on a press call last week that the White House is not discussing a Plan B if the Supreme Court doesn’t rule in its favor.
“We are not deliberating or considering any other kind of alternative approach,” he said. “We’re fully committed to the approach that the Secretary of Education used in this case, and we’re confident in our legal authority.”