The Biden administration extended the years-long pause on federal student loan payments on Tuesday after Republican legal challenges temporarily halted President Biden’s plan to cancel up to $20,000 in debt for millions of borrowers.
“Republican special interests and elected officials sued to deny this relief even for their own constituents,” President Biden said in a video uploaded to Twitter. “It isn’t fair to ask tens of millions of borrowers eligible for relief to resume their student debt payments while the courts consider the lawsuit.”
The Education Department, which owns and manages the government’s $1.5 trillion student debt portfolio, said payments would not restart until 60 days after the department was legally allowed to proceed with Mr. Biden’s promised debt cancellation, or June 30, 2023, if the courts have not resolved the issue by then.
That could delay the payment restart until September 2023.
Mr. Biden’s debt cancellation plan has become bogged down in lawsuits backed by Republican politicians and conservative advocacy groups. The administration last week asked the Supreme Court to take up the issue. An injunction issued by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit — in response to a lawsuit filed by six Republican-led states — has blocked the government from moving forward with Mr. Biden’s plan.
Mr. Biden said he was “completely confident my plan is legal.”
More than 26 million people have applied to have up to $20,000 in federal student loan debt canceled under the program Mr. Biden announced in August. So far, the government has approved 16 million borrowers’ applications. But court orders have blocked the department from wiping out any debt, and this month, it stopped accepting applications, citing the legal roadblocks.
The payment pause began in March 2020 under President Donald J. Trump as a pandemic relief measure and has been now been extended nine times, across two presidential administrations. The latest postponement is the sixth imposed by Mr. Biden.