Supreme court declines to stop Biden’s $400bn student debt relief plan

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The US supreme court declined on Thursday to stop the Biden administration implementing its $400bn student debt relief plan, a move that will allow the program to start as soon as Sunday.

A federal judge in Wisconsin dismissed the case on 6 October, saying the challengers, a group called the Brown County Taxpayers Association, lacked the standing to sue.

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On Thursday, the conservative justice Amy Coney Barrett, who oversees emergency appeals from the seventh circuit, which includes the federal judge, declined a request to halt that ruling.

Barrett did so without comment or referring the request to her colleagues for consideration – a signal that the request was not a particularly strong one.

It was a second win for the Biden administration on Thursday. In St Louis, a federal district judge dismissed a challenge to the student debt program filed by six Republican-led states. That US district judge, Henry Autrey, ruled that the states lacked standing to bring the suit.

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The Wisconsin case will now follow the normal course of an appeal and head to the US court of appeals for the seventh circuit. It could wind up at the supreme court for the justices to decide on a full briefing.

Biden’s plan cancels $10,000 in debt for anyone making less than $125,000 ra year or $250,000 in a household. Those who received Pell grants are eligible for up to $20,000 in debt relief.

The program, which will cost nearly $400bn, will affect roughly 43 million borrowers, the White House said earlier this year.

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The Brown county association, which describes itself as a group of individuals, businesses and organizations dedicated to conservative economic policies, argued Biden acted outside his presidential authority when he created the program this summer.

The group, represented by lawyers from the conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (Will), also claimed the program had an “improper racial motive”, violating the constitutional guarantee of equal protection under law because it was designed to assist Black borrowers and “narrow the racial wealth gap”.

Observers say that kind of view of a color-blind constitution is not supported by history.

Earlier this month, the senior US district judge William C Griesbach, a George W Bush appointee, dismissed the group’s request. He rejected the argument that the group had standing to sue because they were taxpayers and said a “substantial question” existed as to whether the group would suffer harm from the program.

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