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Biden officials begin battle at Supreme Court for student debt relief

The administration began its effort to save President Biden’s student loan forgiveness program before the Supreme Court on Wednesday, submitting an opening brief addressing challenges to the program.

The late-night filing from the Justice Department argued those who have sued the administration over the program lack standing to do so. The filing further argues that even if they did have standing, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona has the clear legal authority to forgive student loan debt.

The filing addresses two cases against the program: a challenge from six Republican-led states and a challenge from two individual student loan borrowers. 

The six states argue they will suffer financial harm from the loss of tax revenues from Biden’s student debt program that would cancel up to $20,000 for some student loan borrowers. 

In the filing, the administration argues these states don’t have any standing as any loss of revenue “results from their own choice to tie their tax laws to the Internal Revenue Code,” and they have the power to control their tax laws.

For an individual or entity to have standing to sue in court, they must prove that some harm will come to them through an action or law.

Other states in the same case argue it hurts investments they have in state loan servicers, which the administration says is speculative and does not give them standing. 

In the second case, two individuals in a Texas court argued against the program because the department did not have a notice-and-comment rulemaking process that they say would have allowed them to argue for even broader relief. 

The Justice Department said Cardona has the authority to forgive this debt through the 2003 Higher Education Relief Opportunities for Students (HEROES) Act and the act does not require the typical comment period.

The program was ruled illegal in a Texas court because the district judge believed the program was overall unlawful, which the department says wouldn’t address the individuals’ claims. Instead of more relief, like the individuals said they wanted, no one would get relief. 

Regardless, the Justice Department states, even if the cases do have standing, Cardona has the authority under the HEROES Act to forgive any amount of student loan debt under a national emergency, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, without Congressional approval. 

The filing says the Education Department determined without the debt relief, there would be undue financial hardship on student borrowers from the pandemic, and it is likely there would be an increase in delinquency in student loan payments. 

The Biden administration has made these arguments for months, but the official filing has kick-started the final attempt to revive student loan forgiveness. 

The six GOP-led states and the two individuals, represented by Jobs Creators Network Foundation, will be up next in the case to submit their separate briefs by Jan. 27.

“We remain confident in our legal authority to adopt this program that will ensure the financial harms caused by the pandemic don’t drive borrowers into delinquency and default. We are unapologetically committed to helping borrowers recover from the pandemic and providing working families with the breathing room they need to prepare for student loan payments to resume,” Cardona said in a statement Wednesday after the opening brief was submitted.

Source: The Hill

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