Updated Oct 20, 2022 - Politics & Policy

SCOTUS denies request to block Biden's student loan forgiveness plan

Justice Amy Coney Barrett attending a State of the Union address in Congress in March 2022.

Justice Amy Coney Barrett attending a State of the Union address in Congress in March 2022. Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett on Thursday turned down a conservative Wisconsin tax group's request to block President Biden's student loan forgiveness plan.

Why it matters: This is the first time a challenge to Biden's plan has reached the high court.

  • While Barrett didn't comment, an earlier Oct. 6 ruling by U.S. District Judge William Griesbach had dismissed the case, ruling that the act of paying taxes did not give the Brown County Taxpayers Association grounds to challenge the action.

Context: The group, based in Green Bay, Wisconsin, first sued Biden, Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona and the Education Department over the forgiveness on Oct. 4 and applied for an emergency injunction from the Supreme Court against it on Wednesday.

  • It argued in its application that the Biden administration had overstepped its executive powers in proposing going forward with the plan.

What they're saying: Griesbach wrote on Oct. 6 that the Supreme Court does allow lawsuits on federal taxpayer standing if it pertains to Congress' taxing and spending power but said the exception is "extremely narrow."

  • "Notwithstanding the fact that the exception to the general rule against federal taxpayer standing has been sharply limited and criticized, Plaintiff seeks to take advantage of and expand that narrow exception," he wrote. "This court certainly has no authority to do so."

Yes, but: Griesbach said the case raised a "substantial question" as to whether the plaintiff could demonstrate that it will suffer irreparable harm from the program, though he said this was not an issue before a court "at this time."

  • However, if the plaintiff did have standing and could prove that it will suffer irreparable harm from the program and that the Biden administration lacks authority to void student debts in this way, the plan "may be void or voidable," he wrote.
  • "If that is so, a future administration may not be bound by such actions and may seek to collect the purportedly forgiven debts," he wrote.
  • "Because Plaintiff lacks standing, that issue is not before the court at this time. Those seeking to take advantage of the program, however, may wish to consider this possibility before placing undue reliance on the benefits promised."

The big picture: The Biden administration, which has been sued by at least seven states and two organizations over the forgiveness plan, has recently begun accepting applications for the forgiveness plan.

Of note: A federal judge in the Eastern District of Missouri on Thursday denied a Republican-led states bid to block the student loan forgiveness plan.

  • Judge Henry E. Autrey questioned whether the scale of loan cancellation needed authorization from Congress because of the economic and political significance, a legal idea known as the “major questions” doctrine, the Washington Post writes.

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Editor's note: This piece has been corrected to show U.S. District Judge William Griesbach issued an opinion on the case, not Justice Amy Coney Barrett.

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