Supreme Court to Hear Challenge to Biden Student Loan Program

December 1, 2022 by Dan McCue
Supreme Court to Hear Challenge to Biden Student Loan Program
President Joe Biden (White House photo)

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Thursday agreed to decide whether President Joe Biden can proceed with his student loan forgiveness program, saying it will hear oral arguments in February, with the date to be determined.

As is their custom, the justices did not explain their rationale for taking the case, though the decision appears to have been unanimous.

The justices also decided to leave a nationwide stay of the program in place at least until they’ve heard the case.

The case coming before the court is Biden v. Nebraska, and it stems from a lawsuit filed by six Republican-led states — Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and South Carolina — which claim the program violates the separation of power as spelled out in the Constitution and is also arbitrary and capricious.

In October, a federal judge tossed the states’ case on the grounds they lacked Article III standing after he concluded they failed to establish imminent and/or non-speculative harm caused by the program.

On Nov. 14,  the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted an emergency motion for injunction pending appeal filed by the states’ attorneys general.

The Biden administration asked the justices — through Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who handles emergency matters for the 8th Circuit — to either vacate the injunction or grant review and decide the legal challenges in the current term. 

In making the administration’s case, U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar argued the 8th Circuit had failed to analyze the text of the statute or the data supporting the plan. 

She also wrote that the states, as the district court held, lacked standing to challenge the plan.

Under the student debt relief plan, which was announced in August, the U.S. Education Department would provide up to $20,000 in debt relief to Pell Grant recipients with loans held by the Education Department and up to $10,000 in debt relief to non-Pell Grant recipients. 

Borrowers would be eligible for relief if their individual income is less than $125,000 or $250,000 for households.

In a statement released by the White House Thursday, Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the administration welcomes the Supreme Court’s decision to hear the case.

“This program is necessary to help over 40 million eligible Americans struggling under the burden of student loan debt recover from the pandemic and move forward with their lives,” she said. “The program is also legal, supported by careful analysis from administration lawyers. President Biden will keep fighting against efforts to rob middle class families of the relief they need and deserve. As we previously announced, student loan payments will remain paused while the Supreme Court resolves the case.”

Dan can be reached at [email protected] and @DanMcCue

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