White House says no 'plan B' to rescue student loan plan in case of court defeat

 January 30, 2023

The Biden White House is signaling confidence that its controversial student loan plan will survive a Supreme Court challenge, saying they have no "plan B" if Biden loses his case. 

Bharat Ramamurti, the deputy director of the National Economic Council, said Biden's lawyers "are confident in the legal authority" behind Biden's program and that they are "not exploring other alternatives.”

Shaky theory

Biden's "Plan A" has been to use a 2003 law, the HEROES Act, to unilaterally wipe debt on the pretext that the COVID pandemic is still an "emergency."

It's a questionable theory, one which has been undermined by Biden's inconsistent messaging.

It was reported Monday that Biden plans to end the COVID emergency on May 11 -- months after he already declared the pandemic "over."

If that bears out, it's unclear how he would continue to defend the student loan forgiveness plan in court.

Few good options

Some have encouraged Biden to devise new strategies, but there are few good options.

Biden has already renewed a moratorium on debt payments until June, pending litigation. Mark Kantrowitz, an expert on student loans, said Biden could extend the pause indefinitely or pursue an income-based repayment program, in which borrowers would pay for a certain period and have the rest forgiven.

Some borrower advocates have sized up a law called the Higher Education Act of 1965.

Of course, many say that Biden's plan has no actual legal basis, that he is simply robbing Peter to pay Paul using whatever legal pretext he can.

Trouble ahead for Biden

16 million people have had their applications approved already, but the program is on hold pending the Supreme Court's decision, which is expected in the summer. Oral arguments will take place in February.

If Biden loses, there could be a shock of defaults following a prolonged period in which borrowers were not expected to pay. And Biden, who is expected to announce a re-election campaign this year, could face backlash from supporters for breaking a promise to forgive their debt.

The NAACP has already warned that the outcome of the case could affect Biden's black support. Biden has defended the student loan forgiveness plan as a win for black people in particular.

“The racial wealth gap will widen, and the vicious cycle of economic inequality will continue" if Biden loses, the NAACP's Wisdom Cole, national director of the youth and college division, said. "If our leaders truly believe that Black lives matter, they should understand that failure is not an option."

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