In the midst of a tumultuous midterm election where Republicans are closing in on regaining control of Congress, one of the big promises that President Joe Biden was 99.9% close to completing is now obliterated. Because we really can’t have nice things.
Reuters reports that following a GOP challenge, a federal judge ruled that Biden’s student loan plan is unlawful, and therefore, must be vacated. U.S. District Judge Mark Pittman, who is – SURPRISE! – a Trump-appointed federal judge in Fort Worth, Texas, handed down the ruling in a lawsuit backed by the Job Creators Network Foundation on behalf of two borrowers. The relief plan was already blocked temporarily by the St. Louis-based 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, as it was considering a lawsuit filed by the Republican Attorney Generals of six states (Nebraska, Missouri, Iowa, South Carolina, Kansas, and Arkansas).
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The student loan debt relief plan would’ve forgiven up to $10,000 in student loan debt for borrowers making less than $125,000 per year, or $250,000 for married couples. Borrowers who received Pell Grants to benefit lower-income college students will have up to $20,000 of their debt canceled. With this plan having this big of a benefit for lower-income individuals (especially Black and other POC students), it is not surprising that several lawsuits were filed by conservative state attorneys general and legal groups since it was announced in August. Up until now, plaintiffs struggled to prove that this plan caused them enough great harm to have the legal standing to sue.
Well, it looks like they were finally able to prove their case… or, at the very least, found the right judge to convince.
In his 26-page decision, Pittman wrote that the HEROES Act, a law that provides loan assistance to military personnel and that was relied upon by the Biden administration to enact the relief plan, did not authorize the $400 billion student debt plan. “The Program is thus an unconstitutional exercise of Congress’s legislative power and must be vacated,” Pittman wrote.
Following the decision, US Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona issued a statement, saying that the Biden Administration will appeal the decision. The full statement is below:
“We believe strongly that the Biden-Harris Student Debt Relief Plan is lawful and necessary to give borrowers and working families breathing room as they recover from the pandemic and to ensure they succeed when repayment restarts.
“We are disappointed in the decision of the Texas court to block loan relief moving forward. Amidst efforts to block our debt relief program, we are not standing down. The Department of Justice has appealed today’s decision on our behalf, and we will continue to keep borrowers informed about our efforts to deliver targeted relief.
“More than 26 million borrowers have provided the information needed to process their applications for relief and 16 million applications have been approved and sent to loan servicers to be discharged when allowed by the courts.
“Separately, we remain committed to taking other actions to fix longstanding issues in the student loan forgiveness system and hold schools accountable for leaving students with mountains of debt and without the skills and preparation to find good jobs.
“Despite this decision, we will never stop fighting for the millions of hardworking students and borrowers across the country.”