Biden's Student Debt Plan Hits Temporary Roadblock

Federal appeals court puts relief program on hold for now as it reviews case brought by 6 GOP states
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 21, 2022 12:00 AM CDT
Updated Oct 22, 2022 6:30 AM CDT
Amy Coney Barrett Rejects Appeal Seeking to Halt Biden's Student Debt Cancellation Program
People take photos of U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2022, in Washington.   (AP Photo/Mariam Zuhaib)

Update: President Biden's student loan relief program has been put on hold, at least temporarily, due to an order from a federal appeals court. The New York Times reports that the directive from the 8th US Circuit Court of Appeals, which mandates that the debt cancellation set to start as early as next week be paused as the case is reviewed, comes two days after a district court dismissed the case brought by six GOP-led states, citing a lack of standing. The court has given the Biden administration until Monday to respond to the appeal, and then the states till Tuesday to respond to that. However, the order "does not prevent borrowers from applying for student debt relief at studentaid.gov," White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre stressed, noting the administration is still moving "full speed ahead" on preparations, per CNN. Our original story from Thursday follows:

Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett on Thursday rejected an appeal from a Wisconsin taxpayers group seeking to stop the Biden administration's student debt cancellation program, the AP reports. Barrett didn't comment in turning away the appeal from the Brown County Taxpayers Association, which also has lost rounds in lower federal courts. The group wrote in its Supreme Court filing that it needed an emergency order to put the program on hold because the administration could begin canceling outstanding student debt as soon as Sunday. Barrett oversees emergency appeals from Wisconsin and neighboring states. She acted on her own, without involving the rest of the court.

US District Judge William Griesbach had earlier dismissed the group's lawsuit, finding they didn't have the legal right, or standing, to bring the case. A panel of appellate judges refused to step in with an emergency order. Other legal challenges to the program, which allows eligible borrowers to apply to have up to $20,000 of debt canceled, are pending. Also Thursday, a federal judge in St. Louis on Thursday dismissed an effort by six Republican-led states to block the debt forgiveness program, the AP reports. US District Judge Henry Autrey wrote that because the six states—Nebraska, Missouri, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, and South Carolina—failed to establish they had standing, "the Court lacks jurisdiction to hear this case."

Suzanne Gage, spokeswoman for Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson, said the states will appeal. She said in a statement that the states "continue to believe that they do in fact have standing to raise their important legal challenges.” Conservative attorneys, Republican lawmakers, and business-oriented groups have asserted that Biden overstepped his authority in taking such sweeping action without the assent of Congress. They called it an unfair government giveaway for relatively affluent people at the expense of taxpayers who didn't pursue higher education. Many Democratic lawmakers facing tough reelection contests have distanced themselves from the plan. (Read more student loans stories.)

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