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Supreme Court takes Biden student loan forgiveness plan case

US President Joe Biden speaks in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, DC, US, on Monday, Oct. 17, 2022.

Bonnie Cash | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The Supreme Court said Thursday that it will hear arguments in a case challenging the Biden administration’s student loan debt relief plan — but kept in place a lower appeals court’s nationwide injunction that prevents that program from taking effect for now.

Oral arguments in the case were set for February in the order released Thursday.

The administration on Nov. 18 asked Justice Brett Kavanagh to lift an injunction against the student loan relief program, which would cancel hundreds of billions of dollars in federal debt.

The US 8th Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis issued that injunction on Nov. 14 in response to a legal challenge by six Republican-led states. Kavanagh is the Supreme Court justice responsible for handling emergency applications arising from 8th Circuit cases.

In its order Thursday, the Supreme Court said that consideration of the application to lift the injunction “is deferred pending oral argument.”

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Days before the 8th Circuit issued its injunction, Judge Mark Pittman in the US District Court in Texas ruled the debt relief plan was unconstitutional, in response to another lawsuit challenging the program.

That ruling, which also applies nationwide, likewise remains in effect.

The Biden administration had asked the federal 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans to put a temporary hold on the decision.

But on Wednesday night, the 5th Circuit refused to grant that hold. The administration was expected to ask the Supreme Court to block Pittman’s ruling from remaining in effect.

People walk across the plaza of the US Supreme Court building on the first day of the court’s new term in Washington, October 3, 2022.

Jonathan Ernst | Reuters

President Joe Biden’s plan would cancel up to $20,000 in debt for millions of people who took out student loans.

By early November, before the injunctions were issued, nearly 26 million people had applied for the program. About 16 million applications had been approved before the program was suspended.

The administration last week said it will extend a pause in required payments on federal student loans until after June, or until court-issued blocks on the debt forgiveness plan are removed.

“We’re extending the payment pause because it would be deeply unfair to ask borrowers to pay a debt that they wouldn’t have to pay, were it not for the baseless lawsuits brought by Republican officials and special interests,” Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said in a Nov. 23 statement.’

Without that break, federal student debt holders would have been scheduled to resume their payments in January.

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