A group of Republican-led states argued Wednesday that the Supreme Court should put President Joe Biden’s student debt relief policy on hold while litigation over it plays out, citing the fact that the Biden administration has extended its pause on student loan payments.
Republican states, which have already won an appeals court injunction blocking the controversial program, said the extension showed there would be no harm if the court order remained in place.
“The department [of Education] may indicate no immediate or imminent harm, as just yesterday the agency extended the student loan payment pause through the summer of 2023,” they wrote in the new filing.
Federal student loan payments were supposed to resume in January after a years-long pause due to the pandemic. But the Biden administration said Tuesday it was extending the pause to 60 days after the resolution of pending litigation over the pardon program. If the program is not completed and the litigation is not resolved by June 30, payments will resume 60 days after that.
Wednesday’s filing by the states came in response to a request by the Biden administration that the Supreme Court lift a stay on the student debt relief program that would have eased up to $20,000 in loans for individual borrowers who earned less than $125,000 in 2020 or 2021.
Republican states accused the Biden administration of relying on “the COVID-19 pandemic” as a “pretext to mask the president’s true goal of fulfilling his campaign promise to wipe out student loan debt.”
The policy was supposed to go into effect earlier this fall, but was blocked by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in a lawsuit brought by Nebraska, Missouri, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas and South Carolina.
They argue that in implementing the program, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona exceeded his statutory authority to cancel individual debts. They also claim the department violated administrative law in the way it launched the policy.
The states defended the appeals court order blocking the aid program, telling the Supreme Court on Wednesday that they would suffer the kinds of harms that make the court’s intervention appropriate.
That procedural threshold — known as standing — has been a legal hurdle for many opponents of the program who have tried to block it in court, including challengers whose requests for Supreme Court intervention had previously been denied. States in the new filing say they will suffer a loss of tax revenue and other types of damages if the debt relief program goes into effect.
The states also pointed to a federal judge’s ruling in Texas in a separate case that overturned the student debt relief policy, which the administration appealed to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. That ruling will stand even if the Supreme Court overturns the stay imposed by the 8th Circuit, the states noted in their filing Wednesday.
The Biden administration has indicated it will take the case to the Supreme Court if the 5th Circuit upholds the ruling overturning it.
In the motion to the Supreme Court, U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar argued that leaving the program on hold “leaves millions of economically vulnerable borrowers in limbo, uncertain about the amount of their debt and unable to make financial decisions with an accurate understanding of their future obligations for payment.’
Prelogar told the Supreme Court that the program is a legitimate effort “to ensure that borrowers affected by a national emergency are not worse off with respect to their student loans.”