The Supreme Court of the United States often makes its most important decisions in downtime, just before the summer recess. And in the downtime of the court’s second term in the current, highly conservative lineup, the Biden administration faced another major challenge on Friday. The court struck down Biden’s plan to write off much of the student debt that weighs on a generation of Americans like a millstone.
The president had decreed this by executive order, but, according to the court, he should have arranged this by law, with the consent of Congress. In the United States, it is government spending. With that, the discount appears to be off the table, as there is currently no majority in Congress for such a plan.
It’s not the only decision in which the court continued the right-wing path it started last year when it struck down the constitutional right to abortion. He also backed the freedom of a Christian web designer to refuse an order from a gay couple seeking to marry (although it emerged this week that the order, on which the lengthy legal process was based, was probably made).
On Thursday, the court had already declared unconstitutional the positive discrimination practiced by certain universities in the selection of new students. This marked a reversal after decades in which the practice had been court-sanctioned, based on the argument that a diverse student population ultimately benefits the quality of education for all. That argument does not outweigh the individual harm some students suffer because they are now not admitted on the basis of race, argue the conservative justices, who now have a six-to-three majority.
Still moderate in some things
However, this second term has not become the battleground of the right feared by some Democrats. Days ago, the court overwhelmingly rejected a controversial legal theory that gave Republican-dominated legislatures more or less freedom to organize constituencies in a way that would almost certainly keep them in power.
Some conservative judges have also shown restraint in a few other cases. And in the affirmative action case, the court left open the possibility of allowing a person’s individual experiences with their ethnic or racial background to be considered for admission.
Conservative Chief Justice John Roberts is known to be concerned about the court’s legitimacy now that it is so out of step with mainstream American society. Perhaps fear played a part in the back of some minds, when practicing moderation. Some Democrats believe President Biden should appoint additional justices to the court – as his predecessor Franklin Roosevelt did in the 1930s to push through the New Deal.
“Not a normal court”
Biden opposes it at the moment. but in response to the affirmative action ruling, he sighed that “this is not a normal court”, not the language one would expect from a president who resigns himself wholeheartedly to the legitimacy of high courts.
This also seems to be brewing within the court itself. Dissent is usually polite, but in an unusually sharp and personal dissent on affirmative action, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson said her colleagues buried their heads “like ostriches” in the reality that racism isn’t going away from him -even.
Who will put the Supreme Court back in its cage?
In the US Senate, hearings begin today on the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett, who can seal the conservative majority on the US Supreme Court for decades. And this as the population as a whole becomes more progressive.
Cancellation of US student debt appears to be stalled in Supreme Court
The Biden administration has written off hundreds of billions of dollars in student debt, but the Supreme Court seems unconvinced the government has the power to do so.
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