Justice Barrett rejects bid to halt Biden’s student debt relief

Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett on Thursday rejected a conservative group’s emergency request, made a day earlier, seeking an order stopping President Joe Biden’s student debt relief plan.

Barrett denied the request by a Wisconsin taxpayer advocacy group without comment or any indication she referred the matter to the full court.

It was the first legal challenge to Biden’s student loan plan to come before the Supreme Court. But it’s possible the issue could return to the high court in the coming weeks as a slew of other lawsuits challenging the unprecedented student debt relief program play out across the country.

Barrett, an appointee of President Donald Trump, received the request because she oversees emergency matters from the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Brown County Taxpayers Association had argued that it should be able to challenge the Biden administration’s debt relief program on behalf of the taxpayers who it says will be dealt a “staggering” blow by the policy. The lawsuit was brought by the conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, which has said the debt relief plan amounts to unconstitutional spending by the Biden administration.

A federal judge in Wisconsin earlier this month rejected the group’s lawsuit, ruling that they lacked standing to bring the case. The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals last week declined to halt the debt relief plan while an appeal is pending in that court.

Key context: More than 12 million Americans have applied for student loan forgiveness since the Biden administration opened the website for borrowers to request up to $20,000 of debt relief late last week.

The Biden administration has said in court filings that it would not begin discharging any debt before this Sunday as various lawsuits play out across the country. The administration argues that it has the power to grant debt relief to large swaths of Americans under a 2003 law that gives the Education Department special powers over federal student loans in times of war or national emergencies, such as the Covid-19 pandemic.

What’s next: A handful of GOP officials and other conservative groups have challenged the policy, which they argue is an illegal abuse of the Education Department’s authority. They argue that the pandemic is a pretext for the administration to pursue a longtime progressive priority by circumventing Congress.

Those lawsuits remain pending in various courts, as does the Wisconsin taxpayer group’s appeal before the 7th Circuit.

A federal judge in Missouri is next expected to rule on a request for a preliminary injunction to block the debt relief plan as part of a lawsuit brought by six GOP-led states.

On Tuesday, a federal judge in Texas has scheduled a hearing in a similar lawsuit challenging the policy filed by a conservative business group.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Thursday declined to discuss any contingency plans the administration has if a court blocks the program, instead criticizing GOP officials for seeking to end it.

“There are opponents out there who are trying to take away what we’re trying to do, what the President is trying to do for the middle class,” she told reporters.

Biden is slated to travel to Delaware State University to promote his student debt relief plan on Friday.


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