Millions of student-loan borrowers are anxiously waiting to see if they will actually receive relief as their challenge to President Biden’s debt forgiveness plan moves through court.
The Biden administration began applying for student loan forgiveness last month and was due to begin applying for relief this month, but those actions were suspended after the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals temporarily blocked the action.
Of the multiple lawsuits across the country, the challenge from six Republican-led states is, at least so far, the only lawsuit that has successfully stopped the program.
The administration plans to forgive federal student loans of up to $10,000 for borrowers making less than $125,000 a year and up to $20,000 for Pell Grant recipients. However, the Eighth Circuit issued an order two weeks ago that prevented the distribution of relief while he considered a debate over whether the state was eligible to sue the plan.
A federal district judge ruled that the six Republican attorneys general who filed the lawsuit were ineligible because they could not prove that Biden’s program caused direct damage to the state.
The Eighth Circuit will suspend the relief program to allow time for both parties to submit briefings before making a full ruling on whether pardons should be suspended until the entire case is resolved. I was.
Abby Shafroth, director of the National Consumer Law Center’s Student Loan Borrower Assistance Project, said The Hill borrowers will “make a decision” from the Eighth Circuit shortly after the briefings are filed.
Legal experts say the court’s decision on whether the state stands on its own could be key to whether the administration will be allowed to provide relief in the coming weeks or months. I said yes.
Michael Sant’Ambrosio, a law professor and senior associate dean for faculty and academic affairs at Michigan State University, said a decision on the state’s motion for a preliminary injunction should be forthcoming, but not in full. If such cases proceeded, he said, litigation “rarely is expeditious.” to court.
“If they grant an interim injunction, I would say all bets are off,” he said.
In an interview with Nextar’s Leshad Hudson last week, Biden said: he expected relief to be paid But experts said it is only possible if the injunction is overturned.
Sant’Ambrogio argues that the Supreme Court has increasingly reduced executive powers to act without explicit direction from Congress, and that Congress has never explicitly approved broad pardons. said the state challenge could be successful.
“This is a very bold move by the administration and certainly raises some questions given how the Supreme Court has interpreted the powers of executive and federal agencies,” said Sant’Ambrogio. rice field.
Shafroth acknowledged that the lawsuit could be lengthy, but he does not believe the challenge to student debt relief will be long-lasting or that the program will be suspended until the court makes a decision. increase.
“It’s unusual for a court to order a party to do or not do something before deciding on a case,” she said.
“Usually, a judge has to find that the government is breaking the law before ordering the government to stop,” Shafroth said.
Six states—Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, and South Carolina—have filed lawsuits, all of which have had debts canceled by Congress in recent years as evidence of a lack of Congressional approval of government actions. The complaint pointed out that it had repeatedly tried and failed to do so.
If an appeals court determines that the state is valid and grants a preliminary injunction, their Description of the merits of the lawsuit There is no deadline until mid-December. After that, the government will have 30 days to respond to him, and the state will have another 21 days to respond to the counter-argument, almost certainly pushing the case into the next year.
The moratorium on loan payments by borrowers during the COVID-19 pandemic is set to end on Dec. 31, but the Biden administration may try to extend it again. The government had asked borrowers to apply for relief by mid-November to ensure they received it before the suspension ended.
“It’s hard to imagine this being done in at least a month. It could be a couple of months before the injunction is finally lifted,” said an associate law professor at the University of Missouri. One Thomas Bennett said: “And of course, if the court of appeals agrees with the state’s position, it could be longer.”
He added that if the federal government loses the case at the court of appeals level, it is possible that the High Court is more likely to take it.
He also said that if multiple courts of appeal ruled differently on the program’s constitutionality, the Supreme Court could be more likely to take up lawsuits challenging the program.
Shafroth noted that the Supreme Court had already denied involvement in one debt relief program case, the Brown County Taxpayers Association v. Biden, and she did not expect them to involve Garrison v. Department of Education. I pointed out that it wasn’t.Right on Friday by Judge Amy Coney Barrett refused urgent action To thwart the Garrison Forgiveness Program.
“It remains to be seen whether other cases will be brought to the Supreme Court,” Shafroth said.
Bennett said in response to Biden’s prediction that “it’s unlikely there will be an actual loan forgiveness in the next two weeks.”
“But I think in the next four weeks, the next six weeks, it will become more and more plausible if they can win,” he added, referring to the administration.
Shahros said it’s difficult to set an exact timeline for this to be resolved in court, but she said she doesn’t expect a long timeframe for a decision.
“Both parties have agreed to an expedited briefing schedule because both parties have a very clear interest in expeditiously resolving these cases. and we are resolving it quickly,” she said.
“Hopefully everything should be resolved fairly quickly,” Shafroth said.