Will Student Loan Forgiveness Survive SCOTUS?

Happy Monday! It’s been a rough season for Steve’s Green Bay Packers, a fact Declan has pointed out repeatedly in these digital pages over the last few months. So when Declan’s Chicago Bears lost yesterday to the struggling Packers for the second time this year, you’d think he would have included that fact somewhere—anywhere—in today’s TMD, just out of a sense of fairness, right? Wrong. The TMD final morning edit exists to catch such oversights and to provide the additional context that with the victory, and despite the down year, the Packers are now the winningest franchise in NFL history. 

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • The Group of Seven and the European Union agreed Friday to ban Western companies from financing, insuring, and shipping Russian oil sold above $60 per barrel—an unprecedented sanction intended to erode the Kremlin’s oil profits while keeping its supply on the market. India and China haven’t joined the price cap, which will reportedly adjust to remain 5 percent below market price. The European Union and United Kingdom are also set to ban Russian crude imports today, but OPEC+—the oil producers cartel led by Saudi Arabia and Russia—announced no immediate production increase in response to the moves. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said Sunday the Kremlin won’t export oil under the cap—even if it means cutting its production. In an effort to blunt the impact of sanctions, Russia has reportedly secured about 103 tankers this year to ensure it can continue shipping oil.
  • North Carolina’s Moore County Sheriff Ronnie Fields announced a mandatory curfew Sunday after about 40,000 customers in the county lost power due to gunfire damage and apparent vandalism at power substations Saturday night. Authorities haven’t yet identified suspects or motives, but the FBI has joined the investigation. County schools canceled classes Monday and, according to Duke Energy, restoring power could take until Thursday for some customers. 
  • Iranian Attorney General Mohammad-Jafa Montazeri reportedly said Saturday the country is considering changing its law requiring hijabs and has reduced its morality police enforcement of religious laws—but Montazeri doesn’t control the morality police and state-run media have denied reports that the morality police will be disbanded entirely. “There are methods of implementing the constitution that can be flexible,” Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said in a televised speech over the weekend. The September death in custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, detained by morality police for allegedly violating the hijab law, has sparked months of nationwide street demonstrations, in which hundreds of protesters have reportedly been killed. 
  • The Labor Department reported Friday that U.S. employers added 263,000 jobs in November—above economists’ predicted 200,000 but below October’s 284,000—and unemployment remained near half-century lows at 3.7 percent, despite high-profile layoffs at companies like Amazon and Meta. Average hourly earnings rose 5.1 percent year-over-year and 0.6 percent month-over-month.
  • The Democratic National Committee’s Rules and Bylaws panel on Friday voted to adopt President Joe Biden’s plan to move the South Carolina primary to the front of the party’s presidential nomination calendar—supplanting Iowa’s long-influential caucus—followed by New Hampshire, Nevada, Georgia, and Michigan. Though still pending full DNC approval, the change would elevate South Carolina’s primary—which played a crucial role in Biden’s 2020 primary victory—over Iowa’s caucus system, which Biden and Democratic activists have argued disadvantages hourly wage workers who can’t take time off for longer, in-person caucus deliberations. South Carolina also has a larger population of black voters than Iowa or New Hampshire.
  • Russian forces continued launching ground attacks around the city of Bakhmut in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region over the weekend in an apparent attempt to encircle the city and retake it as a launching pad for further gains in Donbas. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Saturday that Russian President Vladimir Putin will visit Donbas—a focal point for Russian forces after their withdrawal from Kherson in the south—but did not provide additional details.
  • Twitter moderation staff reportedly responded to requests by the Trump White House and Biden presidential campaign to remove particular tweets, according to reported internal documents journalist Matt Taibbi released this weekend. The documents include discussion of Twitter’s decision in the days leading up to the 2020 election to censor tweets and direct messages sharing information about Hunter Biden’s laptop before reversing itself days later. Though then-candidate Biden initially dismissed reporting about the laptop as a “Russian plant,” media outlets have verified portions of its contents.
  • The United States ended its first run in the World Cup since 2014 on Saturday with a 3-1 loss to the Netherlands in the knockout round of 16. Many of the U.S. team’s young members may return for the 2026 World Cup, where they’re scheduled for their first game against Serbia on home turf in Los Angeles.

Will Biden’s Student Loan Program Survive SCOTUS?

President Joe Biden. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

President Joe Biden’s controversial student loan cancellation program is on life support. Already blocked temporarily by a lower court, the estimated $400 billion plan could have its plug pulled for good after the Supreme Court on Thursday agreed to hear a challenge to the constitutionality of the program. Oral arguments are set for February, and the debt relief will remain on hold until at least that point.

As we noted back in August, Biden’s program pledged to wipe out up to $20,000 in federal student loans for certain borrowers, and $10,000 for most. If that sounds like it’d be difficult to get through an evenly divided Congress, that’s because it would be. Biden didn’t even try, instead claiming he had the power to cancel the debt himself under the arcane 2003 Higher Education Relief Opportunities for Students (HEROES) Act. Passed as thousands of soldiers were deployed to the Middle East after the September 11 attacks, the act empowers the Secretary of Education to “waive or modify” the financial assistance terms of borrowers affected by “a war or other military operation or national emergency.” In this case, the national emergency the administration cited was the COVID-19 pandemic.

Unsurprisingly, the program has elicited a number of legal challenges. And although the Education Department has thus far approved 16 million of the 26 million applicants for forgiveness, no debt relief has been disbursed. The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals is responsible  for that, as well as for the Department of Education’s decision to temporarily stop accepting any more applications for forgiveness. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona blamed “callous efforts” and “baseless lawsuits” for the pause, arguing the 8th Circuit’s injunction would cause “tremendous financial uncertainty for millions of borrowers who cannot set their family budgets or even plan for the holidays without a clear picture of their student debt obligations.”

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