Supreme Court Agrees to Take Up Another Challenge Against Biden’s Student Debt Program

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The U.S. Supreme Court agreed on Dec. 12 to hear President Joe Biden’s appeal of a judge’s ruling that blocked his student debt relief program and found it unlawful, taking up the matter alongside another lawsuit against the policy.

The Biden administration appealed a recent decision handed down by Texas-based U.S. District Judge Mark Pittman to block the program, siding with an advocacy group. An appeals court also ruled against the relief program and placed it on hold.

The case involves two holders of student loan debt—Alexander Taylor and Myra Brown—who said the federal government didn’t follow the right procedure in announcing and implementing the plan earlier this year. In an order, the Supreme Court wrote that it would determine whether Taylor or Brown had standing to file their lawsuit and then hear the merits of it.

On Dec. 1, the Supreme Court confirmed that it would hear arguments on the legality of the debt relief program in another case pursued by six mostly Republican-led states. At the same time, the court will keep Biden’s multibillion-dollar program on hold as it hears arguments next year.

The forgiveness program, which was announced by Biden in August, included up to $20,000 in loan relief for low- and middle-income debt holders. Roughly 26 million individuals have already applied for relief, according to the Department of Education, which stated that about 16 million of those have been approved.

The Texas lawsuit was filed by two borrowers who were partially or fully ineligible for the loan forgiveness, backed by the Job Creators Network Foundation, a conservative advocacy group founded by Bernie Marcus, a co-founder of Home Depot.

Pittman, appointed as a judge by then-President Donald Trump, ruled that the Biden administration overstepped its authority to order debt cancellation under a 2003 law called the Higher Education Relief Opportunities for Students Act, which can “waive or modify” student financial assistance during a war or national emergency.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit later ruled to allow the judge’s injunction to stay until a final ruling in the case is issued. That prompted the Biden administration to appeal to the Supreme Court.

Attorneys general in Nebraska, Missouri, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, and South Carolina filed a lawsuit against the relief plan several weeks after it was unveiled to the public. Those states claim that they have the legal standing to challenge the plan, which they also argue exceeds the federal government’s authority.

According to the Supreme Court order issued on Dec. 12, the Brown case will be “deferred pending oral argument,” which reports state is slated for February 2023, alongside Biden v. Nebraska, the suit that was filed by the six states. No specific date was given.

Under a separate COVID-19-related order, those with student loan debt currently don’t have to make payments. Last week, the White House pushed back the payment pause until mid-2023 while the lawsuits are resolved.

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President Joe Biden announces student loan relief with Education Secretary Miguel Cardona on Aug. 24, 2022. (Oliver Douliery/AFP via Getty Images)

Other Challenges

“The act requires a real connection to a national emergency,” the states’ lawyers wrote in court papers in late November. “But the department’s reliance on the COVID-19 pandemic is a pretext to mask the president’s true goal of fulfilling his campaign promise to erase student-loan debt.”

Lawyers for the administration, in asking the Supreme Court to reverse a lower court’s injunction against the program on Nov. 18, wrote that the injunction should be lifted because it means that millions of people won’t be able to pay back their loans.

Because the plan won’t be implemented in the immediate future, the injunction “leaves millions of economically vulnerable borrowers in limbo, uncertain about the size of their debt and unable to make financial decisions with an accurate understanding of their future repayment obligations,” U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar said, supporting the administration’s position.

Prelogar asserted that the six states don’t have the legal standing to file the lawsuit, saying that the federal government acted within its authority to set up a debt-relief program.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated (pdf) that the program could total $400 billion over about 10 years. Because of the hefty price tag, Republicans criticized the program, while they also claimed that the Biden administration announced the relief plan to coincide with the Nov. 8 midterm elections.

“These responsible Americans paid off their student debt, worked their way through college, or chose a career path that did not require student debt—but Biden is now forcing them to pay off other people’s loans,” Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), who recently won her reelection, told The Epoch Times on Oct. 21.

Reuters contributed to this report.

Jack Phillips

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Jack Phillips is a senior reporter for The Epoch Times based in New York. He covers breaking news.



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