The Department of Justice filed a brief with the Supreme Court defending President Joe Biden’s plan to cancel billions of dollars in federal student loans.
The court filing marks the beginning of a high-stakes battle at the court in the coming months over the fate of one of Biden’s major domestic policy programs.
Biden’s efforts to cancel student debt for millions of Americans “fall comfortably” within the law and enjoy “clear authorization” from Congress, the Justice Department argued Wednesday in its opening brief defending the policy before the Supreme Court.
In August, Biden announced that the government would forgive up to $20,000 in loans, affecting tens of millions of borrowers. An estimated 40 million people would be eligible for relief.
But the plan has been put on ice by two legal challenges.
The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in February in the two cases against the loan forgiveness plan, one from six mostly Republican-led states who say the Biden administration overstepped its authority, and a separate Texas-based case that argues the public should have been allowed to comment.
Republicans insist the plan, estimated to cost about $400 billion, will fuel inflation, which hit 9 percent last summer but has eased somewhat since then.
The Justice Department’s brief filed Wednesday largely echos the legal arguments that the Biden administration has been making in lower courts over the past several months.
It argues that the Supreme Court should toss out the case because the GOP states and Texas borrowers lack legal standing to bring the case. But, the Biden administration argues, the program is clearly legal in any event.
In its brief, the Justice Department said Education Secretary Miguel Cardona had clear authority to provide debt relief to borrowers under the Higher Education Relief Opportunities (HEROES) Act of 2003.