Trump-appointed Supreme Court justice upholds Biden’s student debt relief plan

October 20, 2022, 9:51 PM UTC
Associate US Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett rejected a bid to block President Joe Biden’s student-loan relief plan before it takes effect in the coming days.

Giving no explanation, Barrett denied a request filed Wednesday by the Brown County Taxpayers Association, a Wisconsin group that sought to keep the plan on hold while its legal challenge goes forward. 

The Biden plan would forgive as much as $20,000 in federal loans for certain borrowers making less than $125,000 per year or $250,000 for spouses. The plan made good on a Biden campaign promise and could bolster Democrats in next month’s midterm elections by drawing young voters to the polls.

A federal district judge this month said the taxpayers group lacked legal “standing” to file suit. The Supreme Court has said people generally can’t sue over how their tax dollars are spent. 

Barrett, who handles emergency matters from Wisconsin, chose not to refer the matter to the full court or seek a response from the administration, suggesting she didn’t view the emergency request as a close call. But with at least seven lawsuits challenging the plan, including two filed by Republican-led states, the rebuff isn’t likely to be the final word. 

The Supreme Court in other contexts has curbed the president’s power to act without explicit congressional authorization. In its most recent term, the court blocked the administration from requiring 80 million workers to get shots or periodic tests and curbed the power of the Environmental Protection Agency to tackle climate change.

Biden this week formally started the program, saying that 8 million Americans had already applied for relief and as many as 40 million ultimately could benefit. The Congressional Budget Office in September estimated that the initiative will cost the US Treasury at least $400 billion.

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