Biden administration asks Supreme Court to revive student debt relief plan


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U.S. President Joe Biden pauses as he speaks during the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment meeting at the G20 summit, Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2022, in Nusa Dua, Bali, Indonesia. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) Alex Brandon/AP

Biden administration asks Supreme Court to revive student debt relief plan

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President Joe Biden‘s administration asked the Supreme Court Friday to revive its student debt relief plan that aims to cover as much as $20,000 for some borrowers after an appeals court halted the program.

The filing was submitted by the Justice Department and asks the high court justices to lift a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit that blocked the plan to cancel billions in student debt in response to a challenge brought by six Republican-led states.

The DOJ urged the justices on behalf of the Biden administration to lift an injunction by the St. Louis-based appeals court against the program, arguing that the current legal status leaves “vulnerable borrowers in untenable limbo.”


The appeals court’s decision “thus frustrates the government’s ability to respond to the harmful economic consequences of a devastating pandemic with the policies it has determined are necessary,” U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar wrote in the court filing.

States involved in the challenge include Nebraska, Missouri, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, and South Carolina. The challengers were initially denied by a federal judge who said they did not have legal standing, but the appeals court disagreed, citing a Missouri agency that services federal student loans. The states contend the agency would lose revenue if the loans are forgiven.

The Biden administration hit a legal landmine when it announced the debt relief plan in August and has faced a flurry of lawsuits from conservative and libertarian legal groups, which argue the administration is wrong to justify its massive relief plan as a pandemic relief measure under the 2003 HEROES Act.

Much of the litigation against the debt relief plan has been rejected due to a lack of legal authority, or standing, to show that the program has caused damage to plaintiffs challenging the policy. For example, Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett has already twice rejected emergency appeals from separate cases, presumably without further consideration from the other eight justices.

Nevertheless, the previous emergency applications to the high court happened during a time when other challengers failed to get lower courts to halt the program. Should the Supreme Court conclude that the six Republican-led states do have the standing to halt the plan, the Biden administration would likely face an uphill battle against a 6-3 Republican-appointed high court that has been skeptical of broad assertions of federal power.

For example, the six Republican-appointed justices blocked Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine or test mandate for large businesses in January, and the same court limited the Environmental Protection Agency‘s authority to regulate power plants’ greenhouse gas emissions in June.

Biden’s plan aims to forgive $10,000 in student loan debt for individual residents making less than $125,000 or households with less than $250,000 in income. Meanwhile, Pell Grant recipients would receive an additional $10,000 in debt forgiveness. The plan has been blocked since the appeals court issued a temporary hold last month, and the administration has since closed the online application portal.

Under a separate pandemic relief executive measure, borrowers presently do not have to make payments on outstanding loan debt until Jan. 1.

In a related legal challenge last week, a federal judge in Texas ruled the debt relief plan is an “unlawful” encroachment on Congress’s power. The Biden administration has asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit to halt the ruling while it finalizes an appeal from the district court ruling.

The Texas judge gave a legal victory to the Job Creators Network Foundation, a conservative group that sued against the plan under the belief that it is an “illegal student loan bailout program.”


“Job Creators Network Foundation will strongly fight the Biden administration’s attempt to restart its illegal student loan bailout program. As the district court ruling showed, JCNF has a very strong case that shouldn’t fall on appeal,” Elaine Parker, the president of JCNF, told the Washington Examiner.

The Congressional Budget Office has estimated Biden’s program will cost nearly $400 billion over the next 30 years.

© 2022 Washington Examiner

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