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Biden admin officially weighs in on student loan forgiveness suits

The White House’s Supreme Court brief defending its student loan program takes a buzzsaw to several right-wing claims that the plan is unlawful and unfair.


Late Wednesday, the Biden administration formally submitted its arguments in two cases before the Supreme Court brought by conservatives challenging its student loan forgiveness program

To catch you up: Conservative judges in Missouri and Texas have blocked the program, siding with right-wingers who claim it’s illegal.

Republicans nationwide haven’t been shy about expressing their disdain for the student loan forgiveness program or the people who would benefit from it, whom some GOPers have derided as slackers. 

You likely remember the White House Twitter account ethering some of these Republicans by highlighting that they’d been perfectly fine accepting forgiveness for their own pandemic-related loans. That was Team Biden on the offensive. (Side note: One of the plaintiffs suing over the student loan program appears to have received forgiveness of a Paycheck Protection Program loan that was more than double the amount that any student loan borrower would receive under Biden’s plan.)

The brief submitted Wednesday showed the White House carefully defending the program. The Biden administration said lower court rulings that have stalled the program — or ruled it illegal — “have erroneously deprived the [Education] Secretary of his statutory authority to provide targeted student-loan debt relief to borrowers affected by national emergencies, leaving millions of economically vulnerable borrowers in limbo.”

Among the key arguments Republicans have made is their claim that the Biden administration dubiously used the pandemic as justification for the program. Under the HEROES Act, enacted in 2003, the education secretary can legally waive student loan regulations during a national emergency. The United States, of course, is still under an emergency declaration because of Covid-19, and Wednesday’s brief explained in detail how the administration found the pandemic and student loan debt to be intertwined. 

“The [Education] Department analyzed historical data about borrowers who transitioned back to repayment after periods of forbearance, including after other emergencies, and concluded that such borrowers are typically at ‘elevated risk of delinquency and default,’” the brief reads.  

That aligns with various reports that illustrate the financial strain that would be hoisted onto millions of student loan borrowers if and when the pandemic-era moratorium on payments ends.  

The White House also disputed the plaintiffs’ claims that the lawsuits are about fairness, in part by arguing that the plaintiffs’ proposed remedy — cancellation of the program — wouldn’t improve circumstances for either of the two plaintiffs, Myra Brown and Alexander Taylor. In fact, the Biden admin says, nixing the plan would leave one of them worse off. 

“That judgment leaves Brown’s financial position unchanged; she would still receive no loan forgiveness,” the brief reads. “And it would leave Taylor worse off than before; he would receive neither the $10,000 the plan provides nor the $20,000 he purports to seek, but instead nothing at all.”

The student loan pause has been extended several times since the pandemic began in early 2020, and Biden most recently extended it two months ago, through June. 

Biden vowed to cancel student debt during his 2020 campaign, which, along with rank cruelty, has seemingly incentivized Republicans to try to block him. Late last year, I wrote about how this crusade is likely going to tank the GOP’s already weak standing among young voters, who carry most of America’s student debt and don’t tend to enjoy being saddled by it. 

But the GOP doesn’t operate in political reality, so I fully expect them to continue down this road and cry about the consequences later. 

Keep your eyes and ears peeled. Arguments are expected to begin Feb. 28.