The Fate Of Biden’s Student-Loan Relief Plan Rests With The Supreme Court

The Fate Of Biden’s Student-Loan Relief Plan Rests With The Supreme Court

The financial fortunes of over 40 million Americans who are in line for significant student loan relief, when it hears arguments on the legality of President Joe Biden’s plan to provide targeted relief to student loan borrowers will be slated by the Supreme Court. 

On Feb. 28, the court is expected to hear arguments about whether the millions of Americans eligible for up to $20,000 in student-loan debt forgiveness should get that relief, or whether they should be forced to continue to pay their loans.

With a six-vote conservative supermajority, it seems unlikely that the court would rule to uphold a sweeping executive-branch action by a Democratic administration that involves the redistribution of money from lenders to debtors. But there may be a way for at least some of the court’s conservatives to preserve the debt relief program while achieving a conservative goal.

The most likely way the program would survive the challenges presented in two cases — Biden v. Nebraska and Department of Education v. Brown — is if the outcome turns on the question of standing; that is, whether the parties suing to challenge the program can prove it harms them, and that they are the relevant party being harmed. If the court decides that the six states and two individuals suing the administration lack standing, the justices will not need to actually decide whether the program is legal.

“The standing theories that have been thrown at the wall in these cases are wrong, and many of them would have dangerous implications,” conservative law professors Samuel Bray and William Baude argued in a friend-of-the-court brief submitted in the case.

Despite their own belief that the administration’s debt relief plan is “unlawful,” Bray and Baude argue that none of the states or people filing suit can properly prove they would be harmed by the program. And if the court were to grant standing, it would further expand the ability of states to bring lawsuits to force or block executive actions ― something three of the conservative justices opposed in the 2007 case Massachusetts v. EPA, where the court gave the state “special solicitude” to sue to require the government to regulate carbon emissions.

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