Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett on Thursday rejected a challenge to the Biden administration’s student loan forgiveness program, rejecting an appeal filed by a group of Wisconsin taxpayers.
The order is a victory for President Joe Biden for now, although there are other challenges before it reaches the high court.
Student loan cancellations, up to $20,000 per borrower, can begin Sunday.
The contested appeal was considered an uphill battle, as lower courts ruled that the group, the Brown County Taxpayers Association, did not have the legal right or “standing” to file the lawsuit. Under normal circumstances, taxpayers do not have a general right to sue the government for how it uses taxpayer funds.
Barrett acted alone because he has jurisdiction over the court that decided the case. The matter was waived before the full court. His denial appeared as a single sentence in the court filing.
There are other challenges in the lower courts that could get a closer look, notably brought by six GOP-led states.
The plaintiffs in that case have asked a federal judge to stay the student loan cancellation pending a final ruling on the case. A judge’s order on that request is expected soon, although the loser is expected to appeal immediately. That would send the case to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, where it is likely to face a panel of conservative judges.
The Biden administration is also facing lawsuits from Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich and conservative groups such as the Job Creators Network Foundation and the Cato Institute.
Many of the legal challenges argue that the Biden administration lacks the legal authority to cancel student loan debt across the board.
Attorneys for the government say Congress gave the Secretary of Education the power to pay off the debt in a 2003 law known as the HEROES Act.
Biden’s student loan forgiveness program, first announced in August, aims to pay off millions in federal student loan debt after a nearly three-year pause in federal student loan payments in January due to the pandemic.
Although the application officially opened on Monday, the Biden administration has agreed in court filings to cancel any debt until Oct. 23. Once processing begins, most borrowers are expected to clear their debt within weeks.
Under Biden’s plan, borrowers who earned less than $125,000 in 2020 or 2021 and spouses or heads of household who earned less than $250,000 a year in those years will receive up to $10,000 in federal student loan debt.
If a qualified borrower also received a federal Pell grant while enrolled in college, the individual is eligible for up to $20,000 in debt forgiveness.
This story has been updated with additional information.