The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear a second legal clash over President Biden’s ambitious student debt relief plan that is currently blocked by lower courts.
The two cases involve an effort by the Biden administration to reinstate a loan forgiveness program that would give federal borrowers making less than $125,000 a year up to $10,000 debt relief.
Arguments in the cases could be heard as early as February. It was not immediately clear if the disputes would be consolidated or handled separately.
The case added Monday stems from a legal challenge brought by individual borrowers who argued the debt-relief program’s enactment was procedurally improper. A Texas-based federal judge last month invalidated the program and a New Orleans-based federal appeals court let that ruling stand, prompting the administration’s appeal to the Supreme Court.
Separately, a St. Louis-based appeals court halted the loan relief program in response to a challenge by six conservative-led states — Nebraska, Missouri, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas and South Carolina. Earlier this month the justices agreed to hear the administration’s appeal of that ruling, in which a unanimous three-judge panel found the debt-relief plan usurped Congress’s authority.
The White House, for its part, maintains that its policy is authorized by a 2003 federal law known as the Higher Education Relief Opportunities for Students Act, which both the Trump and Biden administrations have drawn upon to alleviate student borrowers’ financial strain during the global pandemic.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates Biden’s plan will cost about $400 billion over 30 years. Its aim is to forgive up to $10,000 in federal student loan debt for those making under $125,000 annually and up to $20,000 for recipients of Pell Grants, which assist students from lower-income families.
The program has drawn numerous legal challenges including two cases that sought emergency relief in the Supreme Court earlier this year that were unilaterally rejected by Justice Amy Coney Barrett.