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Supreme Court seems cynical about Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan

The court heard arguments in two cases brought against the plan, questioning the authority and legality of planning and executing such a plan

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Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts and retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Stephen Breyer arrive at the U.S. Capitol.

Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts and retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Stephen Breyer, left, arrive before President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the U.S. Capitol, Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023, in Washington. The court heard arguments from two cases challenging the legality of Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan on Tuesday and seemed cynical.

Patrick Semansky, Associated Press

The Supreme Court heard two cases challenging President Joe Biden’s student loan forgiveness program on Tuesday, and some of the the justices expressed their doubts about the likelihood it could go through.

Biden’s plan could provide “forgiveness of up to $20,000 in debt for more than 40 million Americans,” The Associated Press reported.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts was one of the skeptics. He questioned if the Biden administration crafted the plan with enough “congressional authorization to undertake one of the most ambitious and expensive executive actions in the nation’s history,” The New York Times reported.

“I think most casual observers would say,” Roberts said, per the Times, that “if you’re going to give up that much amount of money, if you’re going to affect the obligations of that many Americans on a subject that’s of great controversy, they would think that’s something for Congress to act on.”

Following the plan’s announcement in 2022, 26 million people applied for debt forgiveness and 16 million were approved, but all debt relief is on hold because of the court rulings. And the Education Department halted applications in November because of the legal challenges, per the AP.

If the plan goes through, it would erase more than $400 billion in student debt, according to The New York Times.

Student loan debt totals to $1.7 trillion, CNBC reported.

To halt the plan, the 6 to 3 conservative majority court has to decide whether at least one of the cases has “legal standing to sue in the first place,” according to NBC News.

The court was just hearing arguments and will likely rule by the end of June.

Case 1: Biden v. Nebraska

Six Republican-majority states challenged the plan, bringing the case to the Supreme Court. One of the issues at hand with Biden v. Nebraska is whether or not the secretary of education has the authority to execute the plan, per the Supreme Court blog.

Case 2: Department of Education v. Brown

According to the Supreme Court blog, one of the main questions in Department of Education v. Brown is — did Biden overstep his allotted presidential powers with the plan?

Both cases will address two questions — whether “the challengers have legal standing to bring their lawsuits,” and whether the program exceeds “the legal authority that Congress granted to the Education Department” and if it followed legal processes in the devising of the plan, the Times reported.

Who qualifies for student loan forgiveness and when will you know if you do?

For those earning less than $125,000 salaries, the plan would cancel $10,000 in federal student loan debt. Pell Grant recipients will receive an additional $10,000, totaling $20,000 in student loan forgiveness, per AP.

Borrowers wondering if they qualify for forgiveness can log in to studentaid.gov, the Federal Student Aid website.