The results of the 2022 midterm elections ended well for President Joe Biden as his party held onto their Senate majority and mitigated losses in the House of Representatives; however, legal challenges regarding key policies still loom over his administration.
On November 8th, Democrats won the vast majority of the Senate swing states in order to hold onto their slim majority even though a runoff in the Georgia race will occur next month. Republicans only need to pick up one more seat to retake the House, but the GOP’s majority will be slim as several races remain too close to call, according to the Fox News Decision Desk.
The electoral victory for the Democrats was necessary in order for Biden to continue pushing his legislative agenda for the next two years going into the 2024 presidential race.
Retaining control of the Senate will allow Democrats to confirm the president’s judicial nominations as well as strike down any legislation passed by a GOP House.
However, since the start of Biden’s first term, the courts have proven to be a far more challenging aspect of governance for his administration. Over the summer, the Supreme Court overturned the 1972 decision Roe v. Wade, removing federal protections for abortion. Biden campaigned during the 2020 presidential election on protecting abortion rights, so his administration was pressured to combat the decision.
Two weeks after the Dobbs decision, Biden signed an executive order mandating the Department of Health and Human Services to promote access to healthcare services such as contraception and abortion. At the ballot box, abortion protection proved to be winning during the midterm election and a key motivator for Democratic voters.
Biden’s legal fight with the courts does not end with abortion, though. Last August, his administration announced a plan to cancel student debt for tens of millions of Americans by wiping debts of up to $20,000 for Pell Grants and up to $10,000 for most borrowers.
The decision would affect nearly 20 million Americans or approximately 45% of all student debt borrowers in the United States. However, Republican state attorneys general and conservative legal groups mobilized to bring debt forgiveness to a halt. In early November, a federal judge in Texas appointed by former President Donald Trump ruled that Biden’s executive action was unlawful.
The Job Creators Network Foundation, a conservative advocacy group, backed the lawsuit on behalf of two borrowers that claimed injury. Prior to the decision in Texas, Biden’s debt relief plan was temporarily halted by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in six-Republican states, including Nebraska, Missouri, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas and South Carolina.
The continued legal problems forced the administration to stop taking online applications to have student debt canceled. Originally, the Department of Education vowed that borrowers would have their debt forgiven six weeks after they applied. According to the White House, 26 million people filed applications before it was shut down.
These legal troubles will likely continue as Trump-appointed federal judges and conservative state attorneys are motivated now more than ever to oppose Biden’s legislative agenda after a failed “red wave.” Moreover, House Republicans could potentially add to Biden’s legal headaches by passing legislation restricting the president from canceling student loans. The GOP would need to at least 50 votes in the Senate, but Biden could easily veto such legislation.
Going forward, the greatest opposition to Biden’s agenda will likely be in the courts as Congress remains in a political deadlock.