Biden DOJ Asks Supreme Court to Suspend 2nd National Injunction Blocking Student Loan Forgiveness Program

Biden DOJ Asks Supreme Court to Suspend 2nd National Injunction Blocking Student Loan Forgiveness Program
The U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington on Oct. 3, 2022. (Stefani Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images)
Matthew Vadum

The U.S. Department of Justice asked the Supreme Court to put a hold on a nationwide injunction issued by a federal judge in Texas that’s blocking President Joe Biden’s student loan forgiveness initiative from proceeding.

The debt relief program is already blocked as a result of another federal court order.

The new application comes the day after the Supreme Court turned down the government’s request to stay an order of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit that also blocked the program from moving forward. Instead, the high court ordered on Dec. 1 that that case, known as Biden v. Nebraska, should be argued before the court in February.
Biden unveiled the plan in August in a move critics decried as a constitutionally suspect attempt to shore up Democrats’ fortunes in the Nov. 8 congressional elections. While the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the plan could cost about $400 billion, a paper by the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania states that the price tag could exceed $1 trillion.

The forgiveness program includes up to $20,000 in loan-relief plans for low- and middle-income individuals. About 26 million people have already applied for student loan forgiveness, while about 16 million applications have been approved, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

In the case at hand, known as Department of Education v. Brown, court file 22A489, U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar asked the Supreme Court on Dec. 2 to put on hold a ruling by Judge Mark Pittman of the U.S. District Court in Fort Worth, Texas, who held on Nov. 10 that Biden exceeded his constitutional authority in creating the loan forgiveness program. Pittman, a Trump appointee, entered a nationwide injunction blocking the program.

“The Constitution vests ‘all legislative powers’ in Congress. This power, however, can be delegated to the executive branch. But if the executive branch seeks to use that delegated power to create a law of vast economic and political significance, it must have clear congressional authorization,” which in this case it lacked, Pittman wrote.

On Nov. 30, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit unanimously turned down the government’s request to stay Pittman’s decision. At the same time, the circuit court ordered that the matter be scheduled for a hearing on an expedited basis.

In the emergency application (pdf), Prelogar urged the Supreme Court to stay Pittman’s order, arguing that he erred in granting two student loan borrowers legal standing to challenge the plan.

The borrowers argued that “they were improperly denied the opportunity to comment on the plan and represented that if the Secretary [of Education] had proceeded through [the] notice and comment [process], they would have urged him to adopt broader eligibility criteria and to provide greater debt relief.”

Pittman found that federal law exempts the secretary in this case from notice-and-comment procedures and that the plan exceeded the secretary’s statutory authority even though the borrowers “had not argued that the Secretary’s provision of debt relief to other borrowers inflicted any injury on them.”

Prelogar argued that Pittman “profoundly erred by raising and deciding a claim that respondents did not assert and could not have asserted consistent with Article III” of the U.S. Constitution, which deals with the judicial branch.

But if the high court isn’t prepared to halt Pittman’s ruling, Prelogar encouraged the court to put this emergency application on hold and hear Department of Education v. Brown alongside the Nebraska case in February.

The Epoch Times reached out repeatedly to the law firm of Consovoy McCarthy in Arlington, Virginia, counsel for the borrowers,  for comment but didn’t receive a reply as of press time.

Jack Phillips contributed to this article.
Matthew Vadum is an award-winning investigative journalist.
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