Supreme Court takes 2nd Biden student loan relief challenge

Supreme Court takes 2nd Biden student loan relief challenge

U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks about the student loan forgiveness program from an auditorium on the White House campus in Washington, October 17, 2022.

Leah Millis | Reuters

The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear arguments in a second case challenging the legality of the Biden administration’s ambitious student loan relief program.

The case, originally filed in Texas, will be argued in February before the Supreme Court along with the first case the court accepted.

The Biden administration had asked the Supreme Court to hear both cases if it did not agree to reverse injunctions issued by two separate federal appeals courts last month, which blocked the student loan relief program from going into effect.

The administration has said President Joe Biden’s plan could benefit more than 40 million borrowers by forgiving up to $20,000 in debt. It would cancel hundreds of billions of dollars in federal debt owed by borrowers.

The Supreme Court, when it accepted the first case on Dec. 1, declined to lift the orders blocking the program from taking and processing applications.

The Education Department extended a loan repayment pause after the appeals courts issued the nationwide injunctions. That pause will continue until June, or until the Supreme Court rules on the program’s legality.

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In the case the Supreme Court accepted Monday, two plaintiffs, Myra Brown and Alexander Taylor, sued the Education Department in U.S. District Court in Texas, claiming the administration improperly implemented the debt relief plan without notifying the public about it or offering a chance to comment on it.

Both Brown and Taylor have student loans.

Brown “is ineligible for relief under the plan because her loans are held by commercial entities rather than the [Education] Department,” Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar of the Justice Department wrote in her application to the Supreme Court requesting it lift an injunction.

“Taylor is eligible for $10,000 in relief, but not for $20,000, because he did not receive a Pell Grant,” Prelogar wrote.

The federal judge who had the case rejected the claim that the Education Department was obligated to have a notice-and-comment period before adopting the plan. But the judge ruled that the program exceeded the statutory authority of the secretary of Education, and as a result blocked the plan from taking effect.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit denied the Justice Department’s request to lift that injunction as it appealed the judge’s order.

In the first case the Supreme Court accepted for oral argument, six Republican-led states challenged the debt relief program on claims that it would threaten their future tax revenues. They also argued the plan circumvented congressional authority.

In that case, a federal district judge in Missouri had denied the states’ request to issue an injunction against the program, finding that none of the states had legal standing to bring their lawsuit. But the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals later issued a nationwide injunction against the plan pending the outcome of an appeal of that lower-court ruling.

The case the Supreme Court accepted Monday is Department of Education, et al., v. Myra Brown, et al, docket number 22A489.

The first case accepted by the court challenging the debt relief program is Biden v. Nebraska, docket number 22-506.

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