Pa. Repubs ask SCOTUS to toss Biden’s student loan program | Wednesday Morning Coffee

All but two of the state’s GOP lawmakers on Capitol Hill signed on to a friend of the court brief

By: - February 8, 2023 7:14 am

Republican U.S. Reps. Mike Kelly (left) and Scott Perry (right).

All but two members of Pennsylvania’s Republican U.S. House delegation have signed a brief in support of a U.S. Supreme Court challenge to President Joe Biden’s student loan forgiveness program.

The friend of the court brief filed late last week includes the signatures of 127 members of the House GOP. The nation’s highest court is set to hear oral arguments on the matter by month’s end, CNBC reported.

U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly, R-16th Districtwho’s no stranger to U.S. Supreme Court fights, is among the signatories.

In a statement his office released Tuesday, the Erie-area lawmaker cast Biden’s loan forgiveness program as an “unconstitutional act,” that’s “nothing more than a political ploy that will ultimately cost taxpayers approximately $400 billion.”

Other signatories to the brief included Republican U.S. Reps. Dan Meuser, R-9th DistrictScott Perry, R-10th DistrictLloyd Smucker, R-11th DistrictGuy Reschenthaler, R-14th District, and Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson, R-15th District.

U.S. Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-1st District, and John Joyce, R-13th District, were the holdouts among Pennsylvania’s GOP delegation.

In a tweet issued in the wake of the program’s announcement last year, Perrywho played a key role in efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election, denounced the effort.

“Transferring debt from those who are responsible for it to those who are not isn’t forgiveness, it’s theft,” Perry said.

Last year, as he sought re-election, Fitzpatrick joined with U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, D-Ore., on a bill aimed at helping student borrowers to avoid defaulting on their loans.

Student debt is “a crippling burden that impacts borrowers’ involvement in our economy and achieving personal goals like owning a home, starting a family, and supporting the community,” Fitzpatrick said at the time. “Investing in one’s own future through higher education should not lead to long-term financial distress.”

While he’s not on the brief, Joyce has been openly scornful of the White House’s initiative, denouncing it as a “debt transfer scam.”

“Despite soaring inflation, President Biden is bypassing Congress and single-handedly acting to take the tax dollars of hardworking Pennsylvania families – many of whom either did not go to college or sacrificed for years to fully repay their student loans – and use that money to fulfill a campaign promise to the political left,” Joyce said in an August 2022 statement.

College Lecture Hall
(Getty Images)

In all, 26 million people in all 50 states applied — or were automatically eligible — for the onetime relief, the White House said last month. That included 1.15 million Pennsylvanians, 743,000 of whom saw their applications approved and sent to loan servicers, data released by the administration showed.

The long-awaited plan, officially announced last year, forgives $20,000 in student debt for Pell Grant recipients and $10,000 for borrowers earning $125,000 or less annually, the Capital-Star reported at the time.

With 64 percent of Pennsylvania college graduates having student loan debt in 2019-20, the commonwealth ranks among the highest in the nation for most debt, according to the Institute for College Access and Success, a national organization that advocates for accessible and affordable education, the Capital-Star’s Marley Parish reported last year.

The average debt load of a Pennsylvania college graduate during the same timeframe was $39,375. In Pennsylvania, 22 percent of college graduates had private student loan debt, with an average total of $42,361, Parish reported.

A view of the front portico of the United States Supreme Court building in Washington, DC.

Opponents of the plan have been waiting for its inevitable arrival before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The high court is set to hear challenges brought by six Republican-led states, who argue that “forgiveness will disrupt state entities that profit from federal student loans, as well as a lawsuit backed by the Job Creators Network Foundation, a conservative advocacy organization, featuring two borrowers in Texas who are partially or fully left out of the president’s relief,” CNBC reported.

It’s possible the nation’s highest court, which has a conservative majority, will strike down the White House’s program, one legal expert told the financial news network.

That’s because the justices swiftly agreed to hear the challenges, suggesting they’re eager to strike it down, Harvard University Law School professor Lawrence Tribe told CNBC.

“It’s basically put the program in deep freeze until it proceeds to most likely dismantle it,” Tribe told CNBC.

In Pennsylvania, Biden’s Democratic allies have defended the program, describing it as a lifeline for state residents struggling to pay off thousands of dollars in debt.

The program will allow borrowers “the freedom to invest in their future, buy a home, or take a risk and start a business,” U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., said last year.

Casey added that lawmakers need to address “skyrocketing” college costs, so future students can get an education “without signing up for a lifetime of debt.”

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.