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Biden administration urges Supreme Court to revive student loan forgiveness plan

Nov. 18, 2022 Updated Fri., Nov. 18, 2022 at 8:57 p.m.

U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks on his work to rebuild manufacturing in America from the South Court Auditorium at the White House in Washington, D.C. on Feb. 8, 2022.    (Yuri Gripas/Abaca Press/TNS)
U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks on his work to rebuild manufacturing in America from the South Court Auditorium at the White House in Washington, D.C. on Feb. 8, 2022.   (Yuri Gripas/Abaca Press/TNS)
By David G. Savage Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON – The Biden administration asked the Supreme Court on Friday to lift lower court orders and to clear the way for the Education Department to forgive millions of student loans.

At issue is whether conservative lower courts can block the program indefinitely.

In August, Biden said the government would forgive up to $20,000 in loans for qualifying borrowers, basing the action on a 2003 law that granted relief to those affected by war or a national emergency.

Both the Trump and Biden administrations cited the pandemic as a national emergency that justified a pause in loan repayments.

But Republican state attorneys and conservative advocacy groups insisted the president did not have the authority to forgive $400 billion or more in outstanding loans.

Acting on a suit brought by six Republican state attorneys, the 8th Circuit Court in St. Louis issued a nationwide order to block Biden’s loan forgiveness plan. A judge in Texas also declared the plan illegal because the president had exceeded his authority.

Rather than wait months for a final ruling, U.S. Solicitor Gen. Elizabeth Prelogar filed an emergency appeal asking the Supreme Court to intervene and set aside the lower court orders. She said the judges had exceeded their authority by issuing broad orders based on a very thin claim of harm.

“The 8th Circuit’s erroneous injunction leaves millions of economically vulnerable borrowers in limbo, uncertain about the size of their debt and unable to make financial decisions with an accurate understanding of their future repayment obligations,” she told the court.

She said the conservative judges ignored the fact that there was no evidence the state or individuals would suffer any harm if some students had their loans forgiven.

The justices will likely ask for a response from the other side and then decide shortly whether to intervene.

Prelogar suggested that if the justices were uncertain on the law, they could grant review of the case and rule early next year.

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