Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) has warned that the Supreme Court is rapidly expanding its own power and approaching the realm of authoritarianism after justices released another devastating slate of decisions last week that threaten to majorly disrupt higher education and LGBTQ rights across the country.
In an interview on CNN on Sunday, Ocasio-Cortez said that Supreme Court justices are “overreaching their authority,” especially when it comes to their decision last week to strike down President Joe Biden’s plan to cancel up to $20,000 of student debt for a wide swath of borrowers. She called on Biden to take further action to aid student loan borrowers as payments are scheduled to restart this October and a major chance at relief has been yanked away by a Court with ties to powerful special interests.
“The courts, if they were to proceed without any check on their power or balance on their power, then we will start to see an undemocratic and, frankly, dangerous authoritarian expansion of power in the Supreme Court — which is what we are seeing now,” Ocasio-Cortez said.
With these rulings, the Supreme Court is acting as though they have the same power as Congress to legislate, Ocasio-Cortez added.
She then called on Biden to suspend interest payments for a year as payments restart in order to give borrowers a fighting chance at repaying their student loans — something that the vast majority of borrowers say they’re not ready for.
“There are millions of people in this country that have student loan debt amounts under ten or twenty thousand dollars as outlined in the plan. People should not be incurring interest during this 12-month on-ramp period,” said Ocasio-Cortez, referring to the Biden administration’s plan to ensure that people who miss payments until the end of September 2024 will not be placed in default or referred to collections.
The Biden administration also announced a slate of actions it was taking on student debt shortly after the Supreme Court ruling was handed down. Biden has pledged to explore using his authority granted under the Higher Education Act to cancel student debt, something that advocates have long urged him to do.
The administration also announced that it would be unrolling an income-driven repayment plan that supposedly decreases borrowers’ payments to match their incomes if they are under a certain threshold and eventually cancels their debt. However, debt advocates have strongly criticized income-driven repayment for its inefficacy; a 2021 report by the National Consumer Law Center and Student Borrower Protection Center found that only 32 people had ever gotten their loans canceled through income driven repayment.
Ocasio-Cortez also called for further action from Congress to rein in the Supreme Court as it faces a self-imposed crisis of legitimacy and multiple corruption scandals. She said that if Chief Justice John Roberts — who has been recalcitrant in the face of calls for him to combat corruption among justices — doesn’t comply with requests to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee, then the committee should subpoena him.
“If Chief Justice Roberts will not come before Congress for an investigation voluntarily, I believe that we should be considering subpoenas, we should be considering investigations, we must pass much more binding and stringent ethics guidelines… There also must be impeachment on the table,” Ocasio-Cortez said.
“We have a broad level of tools to deal with misconduct, overreach and abuse of power, and the Supreme Court has not been receiving the adequate oversight necessary in order to preserve their own legitimacy,” she continued. “And in the process they themselves have been destroying the legitimacy of the court, which is profoundly dangerous for our entire democracy.”
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