Student Loan Borrowers Ask Supreme Court to Hear Their Case Against Biden’s Loan Forgiveness Program
By Matthew Vadum
Student borrowers who object to President Joe Biden’s move to forgive student loans at a cost of $1 trillion or more have asked the Supreme Court to hear their case.
Biden unveiled the plan in August in a move critics said was a constitutionally dubious attempt to shore up Democrats’ fortunes in the Nov. 8 congressional elections. While the Congressional Budget Office said the plan could cost about $400 billion, a paper by the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania estimates the price tag could exceed $1 trillion.
The government cited the Higher Education Relief Opportunities for Students Act of 2003 (HEROES Act), temporarily putting a pause on student loan payments and interest during the recent pandemic. Earlier this year, the government said it enjoyed emergency authority under the law as a result of the pandemic to proceed with partial forgiveness of student loans.
The debt relief program was already suspended by a federal court.
In Biden v. Nebraska, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit blocked the program from moving forward, issuing a nationwide injunction. When the Biden administration asked the Supreme Court to set aside the order, the high court denied the request and ruled (pdf) on Dec. 1 that it would hear oral arguments on the case in February.
But in the case at hand, known as Department of Education v. Brown, court file 22A489, U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar asked (pdf) the Supreme Court on Dec. 2 to put on hold a separate ruling by Judge Mark Pittman of the U.S. District Court in Fort Worth, Texas. Pittman held Nov. 10 that Biden exceeded his constitutional authority in creating the loan forgiveness program. Pittman, a Trump appointee, entered a nationwide injunction blocking the program.
In the case, borrower Myra Brown was deemed ineligible for loan relief and Alexander Taylor argued he was eligible for $10,000 in relief. They say the Department of Education improperly denied them the opportunity to participate in the public commenting process and that they would have urged the agency to provide greater debt relief.
The borrowers’ lawyer, John Michael Connolly of Consovoy McCarthy in Arlington, Virginia, filed a brief (pdf) with the Supreme Court arguing that the Department of Education violated the Administrative Procedure Act and the Higher Education Act by deciding “the key details of the program behind closed doors, including which individuals will receive debt forgiveness, how much of their debt will be forgiven, and which types of debt will qualify.”
“The result was predictable: some will benefit handsomely, some will be shortchanged, and others will be left out entirely.”
Connolly told the high court the case should not be consolidated with the Nebraska case.
The “different facts, claims, and posture of” the Brown and Nebraska cases “make it possible that the Court’s decision in Nebraska will not resolve this case.”
Prelogar filed a brief (pdf) with the high court Dec. 8 urging it to stay Pittman’s order.
But Prelogar said she agreed with the other side that, at a minimum, the court should agree to hear oral arguments on the case.
The court should hear the case alongside the Nebraska case, she added.
The student borrowers lack standing to challenge the debt relief program, she wrote.
They cannot, on the one hand, “claim to be injured” because the government’s plan provides too little debt relief, while at the same time asking the court to find that the government “can provide no debt relief at all—to them or to anyone else.”
The Epoch Times reached out to the Department of Justice and Connolly for comment but had not received a reply from either as of press time.