Sonia Sotomayor pushes back on conservative SCOTUS justices who questioned the fairness of Biden's student-loan forgiveness plan, saying the US is 'not a society of unlimited resources'
Business Insider 2hrs ago
  • SCOTUS Justice Sonia Sotomayor questioned efforts to gut the Biden student-loan forgiveness plan Tuesday.
  • Sotomayor was among a few justices pushing back on common GOP arguments on the "fairness" of the program.
  • Sotomayor was joined by justices Ketanji Brown Jackson, Elena Kagan, and Amy Coney Barrett in scrutinizing the cases' standing to sue.

Liberal US Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor brushed aside conservative arguments against President Joe Biden's student-loan forgiveness plan on Tuesday, urging the justices to think about the tens of millions of affected students.

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court heard over four hours of oral arguments related to two consequential cases challenging the Biden administration's program to cancel up to $20,000 in debt for federal borrowers.

Justices heard a case brought by Republican-led states who argued the debt relief would hurt their states' tax revenues, and later picked apart a case brought by two student-loan borrowers who sued because they did not qualify for the full $20,000 amount of debt relief. 

Conservative justices appeared skeptical of the legality of Biden's plan in their lines of questioning, with Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Neil Gorsuch bringing up the issue of fairness when it comes to giving student debt relief to some, but not all.

"I think it appropriate to consider some of the fairness arguments," Roberts said, with Gorsuch also asking what the "cost" of the plan is "in terms of fairness" to people who have paid their loans, who haven't taken out loans, or who are ineligible for loans in the first place. 

But Sotomayor challenged that argument. When questioning Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar, on behalf of Biden, about the scope of the debt relief plan, Sotomayor asked: "I take your bottom-line answer to be, everybody suffered in the pandemic, but different people got different benefits because they qualified under different programs, correct?"

"There's inherent unfairness in society because we're not a society of unlimited resources. Every law has people who encompass it or people outside it," Sotomayor said, adding that "that's not an issue of fairness. It's an issue of what the law protects or doesn't."

Ahead of the arguments, Republican lawmakers also made their voices heard on the issue of fairness. GOP Sen. Rick Scott wrote on Twitter: I think it's unfair to make YOU pay off the debts of a small percentage of Americans who chose to take out student loans. Don't you?"

It's unclear which way the conservative-majority court will lean. Conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett joined the liberal justices in challenging the standing of both of the cases, but it would require the vote of an additional conservative justice to uphold Biden's debt relief plan. 

Still, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona expressed confidence the plan will prevail following the arguments.

"The Department of Justice argued against the lawsuits aimed at denying relief to borrowers, made clear that challengers to the program lack standing to even bring their cases to court, and explained the Department of Education's decades-old authority used by multiple administrations to protect borrowers from the effects of national emergencies," Cardona said in a statement.

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