WASHINGTON — Representative Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, issued the following statement in response to the Supreme Court’s decision in Biden v. Nebraska striking down President Biden’s executive order to cancel student debt:

“This decision is the latest assault of an extremist right-wing activist Supreme Court and extremist MAGA Republicans on everyday Americans. The President’s legal authority for canceling student debt under the HEROES Act was clear and sound, but the justices chose to uphold a political agenda being unleashed by extreme MAGA Republicans rather than the law. With every decision, from stripping abortion rights and affirmative action to allowing for the destruction of our wetlands and the undermining of LGBTQ+ rights, this Supreme Court is showing the need to expand the court and legislate ethics standards that ensure the Court is working for the people — not for political interests and wealthy benefactors.

“It cannot be overstated how devastating this ruling is. Before the pandemic, more than 25 percent of borrowers were behind on payments and 9 million borrowers were in default, with one borrower defaulting every 26 seconds. The Department of Education estimates those statistics will only get worse for millions without cancellation, and new research shows 1 in 5 borrowers will struggle financially when payments resume.

“Despite the myths that extreme Republicans put out there, 97 percent of student loan borrowers are low- and middle-income. 40 percent of borrowers never were able to finish their degree, often working multiple jobs simply to pay for that education, food and rent. Student debt is also not just a young people's issue: it's one of the largest factors contributing to the rise in debt among seniors. Nearly nine million people who hold student loan debt are older than 50, with nearly one million over age 65. In twenty years, thanks in part to Republicans relentless efforts to cut investments in public education, in-state tuition and fees at public colleges and universities have increased by 175 percent, and the federal government and loan profiteers have made money off students who are simply trying to get an education. All of this is unacceptable.

“President Biden understood all of this, and understood the urgency of relieving tens of millions of people from having their livelihoods, their futures, and their dreams crushed by student debt.  That’s exactly why he used the legal authority he had to issue an executive order that was a lifeline to these millions of our neighbors, friends, parents, and grandparents. Contrast that with the callous, politically motivated lawsuits from Republicans across the country that have blocked any of that relief from going out the door.  

“Let’s be clear: the Supreme Court did not rule against all student debt relief writ large — it only took this particular statutory pathway off the table. The President can utilize other ways to cancel student debt. We urge him to use them and deliver this cancellation 43 million people desperately need as quickly as possible. Inaction is not an option.”