Broadcast network news show reveal bias in coverage of SCOTUS arguments on Biden's student loan debt relief program

 March 3, 2023

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday heard oral arguments in two cases that challenge President Joe Biden's student loan debt relief plan, and by all accounts, things did not go particularly well for the administration.

That was clearly reflected in the nightly news coverage of the arguments on the three major broadcast networks, and it was readily apparent that the networks were disappointed with how the day had gone and the likely outcome for Biden's program, Newsbusters reported.

The liberal bias of the network anchors and reporters on scene at the Supreme Court in favor of the president's debt relief plan and against the conservative-leaning justices was plainly evident in the wording of their reports to viewers.

Majority of justices skeptical of claimed authority

According to SCOTUSblog, it was equally apparent to court observers during the oral arguments that the six Republican-appointed justices were skeptical of President Biden's claimed authority to unilaterally cancel an estimated total of $400 billion-plus in student loan debt while the three Democrat-appointed justices appeared defensive of the president's plan and attacked the standing of the plaintiffs to sue.

There were actually two cases argued on Tuesday, the first being Biden v. Nebraska, in which six states argued that they did indeed have standing to sue the federal government and that the Education secretary exceeded his authority and acted in an "arbitrary and capricious" manner in establishing the debt relief program.

The second case is known as Department of Education v. Brown, and it involves two individuals with student loan debt -- one who did not qualify for any relief, the other who was only eligible for partial relief -- and they similarly argued both that they had standing to sue as well as that the Education Department had exceeded its statutory authority and didn't follow proper procedures in adopting the debt relief plan.

Primarily at issue here is the Biden administration reliance on a post-9/11 law known as the HEROES Act in which Congress granted the Education secretary limited authority to "waive or modify" certain regulations pertaining to federally-backed student loan programs for certain individuals during a "national emergency, and whether that delegated authority actually allows for the wholesale cancellation of up to $20,000 in debt for a tens of millions of borrowers.

Republicans trying to "kill the program"

Newsbusters noted that the reporter for ABC's "World News Tonight" expressed his sympathy for the protesters outside the Supreme Court who favored and would benefit from Biden's plan but neglected to mention the constitutionality question at the heart of the challenge.

The reporter concluded that "there is no question that the conservative super majority on this court seems poised to strike down this program, and White House officials have been saying that they have not discussed options. There is no plan B."

It was a similar story over on "CBS Evening News," where that network's reporter also focused on the protesters who stood to benefit from having some or all of their debt canceled by Biden's plan but how Republicans were "urging the court to kill the program."

That reporter further noted that GOP "confidence" in defeating Biden's plan "was bolstered during three hours of arguments as conservative justices seemed skeptical that President Biden could single-handedly forgive student debt for 95 percent of borrowers." The reporter then added, "But liberal justices said the law gave the administration power to act during national emergencies like COVID."

Biden simply offering a "helping hand" for borrowers

Then there was "NBC Nightly News," where anchor Lester Holt seemed to lament the "new headwinds" faced by Biden's plan as "conservative justices questioned whether the President was acting within the law" while the president himself has insisted that the plan is merely a "helping hand for those getting back on their feet after the pandemic."

The segment concluded with Holt and his network's reporter at the Supreme Court focused optimistically on the possibility that the court might ultimately concluded that the plaintiffs lacked standing and dismiss the challenges altogether and save the program from its apparent impending demise.

It likely won't be until June or July when a final decision on these two cases is released, and it is a safe bet that the networks will have plenty more to say over the coming months in defense of the likely unconstitutional debt relief plan and the mean conservative Republicans who would deny such relief to individuals who willingly signed agreements for student loans that would eventually have to be repaid in full.

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Thomas Jefferson
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