The Biden Administration has found a way of proceeding with a campaign promise, despite a block by the United States Supreme Court in an unexpected maneuver that has conservatives questioning the legality of the move.
In June, the Supreme Court ruled against President Joe Biden's multibillion-dollar student loan forgiveness program, but his administration continues to cancel the greatest amount of student debt in history, as The Washington Examiner reported.
According to the Education Department, since the high court rejected Biden's proposal to forgive up to $430 billion in student debt, his administration has canceled more than $48 billion for nearly 3.6 million people since the summer and $127 billion since taking office.
Existing student loan forgiveness programs, which are limited to specific categories of borrowers, such as accounts that have been paying for over 20 years, those who have been defrauded by for-profit colleges, and public employees, contributed to the administration's success in erasing the debt.
Biden has also managed to counteract actions taken during the administration of former President Donald Trump to limit some debt relief programs by temporarily expanding debt relief programs.
Nearly $42 billion in federal student loans borne by nearly 855,000 borrowers enrolled in income-driven repayment, or IDR, plans account for a significant portion of the loan forgiveness. The Department of Education said in a statement on August 14 that it intended to remedy "past administrative failures."
In a July social media statement, Trump, the Republican frontrunner for the 2024 presidential election, claimed credit for putting an end to Biden's debt forgiveness plan, saying it was only possible because of his "nomination of three distinguished and courageous jurists to the Supreme Court."
Trump has described Biden's loan relief proposal as a "election-enhancing money grab." Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL), Trump's chief rival for the GOP nomination in 2024, has compared such forgiveness to stealing tax dollars from laborers without a college degree.
The administration announced on October 4 the cancellation of an additional $9 billion in student loan debt, including $5.2 billion for Public Service Loan Forgiveness borrowers and $2.8 billion for IDR borrowers.
Biden's previous proposal to forgive up to $20,000 in debt per borrower was greeted with numerous lawsuits almost immediately. His new plan to forgive $39 billion in debt owed by over 800,000 individuals under the IDR program is currently being challenged in the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals by the New Civil Liberties Alliance, a group that claims Biden authorized the forgiveness without "legal authority."
"The Supreme Court has declared unlawful the Administration's $430 billion student loan program to cancel student loan debt by administrative fiat without involving Congress. Yet, the Administration is still pursuing a series of similarly unlawful loan cancellations by administrative fiat that, taken together, will cost even more than the program the Supreme Court halted," Sheng Li, litigation counsel at NCLA, told the Washington Examiner earlier this month.
In August, a spokesperson for the Department of Education referred to NCLA's lawsuit as a "desperate attempt from right-wing special interests to keep hundreds of thousands of borrowers in debt," and vowed to defend it in court.
The crux of the government's argument is whether or not the department can consider years during which a borrower was in forbearance or deferment, i.e. not making loan payments.