John Roberts quoted Pelosi in his opinion on student loan forgiveness: "He (Biden) doesn't have that power"

In the majority opinion written about the case, the Chief Justice reminded the public of a statement the former Speaker of the House made in mid-2022.

The Supreme Court (SCOTUS) ruled that Joe Biden does not have the authority to implement his student debt cancellation plan through executive action. The six conservatives held a united front behind the majority opinion written by Chief Justice John Roberts, who quoted Nancy Pelosi in his brief. The former House speaker had made a powerful argument against the president’s initiative.

The nation’s highest court struck down the president’s initiative, which would have canceled up to $20,000 in loans for Pell Grant recipients and $10,000 for other borrowers as long as the individual’s income is less than $125,000.

Roberts, who came to the Court in 2005 after being nominated by President George W. Bush and subsequently confirmed by the Senate, wrote the majority opinion in Biden vs. Nebraska. “The Secretary asserts that the HEROES Act grants him the authority to cancel $430 billion of student loan principal. It does not. We hold today that the Act allows the Secretary to ‘waive or modify’ existing statutory or regulatory provisions applicable to financial assistance programs under the Education Act, not to rewrite that statute from the ground up,” the judge wrote.

He later recalled Nancy Pelosi, who in 2022 had made strong arguments against the president’s initiative. “As then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi explained,” Roberts continued, “People think that the president of the United States has the power for debt forgiveness. He does not. He can postpone. He can delay. But he does not have that power. That has to be an act of Congress.

Indeed, the House and Senate had voted to override Biden’s education plan on a bipartisan basis, something the president subsequently vetoed. Jared Golden (D-MA) and Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (D-WA) joined House Republicans in voting yes, while Joe Manchin (D-WV), Jon Tester (D-MO) and Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ) did the same in the Upper House.

The cost of Biden’s plan to cancel student debt

According to a nonpartisan Wharton (University of Pennsylvania) study, “Federal student loan debt forgiveness for college students would have cost between $300 billion and $980 billion over the 10-year budget period, depending on the details of the program.”

In addition, they found that “about 70% of debt relief accrues to borrowers in the top 60% of the income distribution.”