A Trump-appointed judge has raised another legal hurdle to Biden’s plan to clear student debt

A US judge in Texas on Thursday blocked President Joe Biden’s plan to provide millions of borrowers with up to $20,000 each to forgive federal student loans – a program was on hold when the federal appeals court in St. Louis considers a separate lawsuit by six states challenging it.

District Court Judge Mark Pittman, an appointee of former President Donald Trump based in Fort Worth, said the program had usurped Congress’ power to make legislation.

“In this country, we are not ruled by an almighty executive with a pen and a phone. Instead, we are ruled by a Constitution that provides for three separate and independent branches of government,” wrote Pittman.

He added: “The court is not blind to the current political divisions in our country. But it is fundamental to the existence of our Republic that the separation of powers as set forth in our Constitution is preserved”.

The debt forgiveness plan will cancel $10,000 worth of student loan debt for people earning less than $125,000 or households earning less than $250,000. Pell Grant recipients, who typically demonstrate greater financial need, will receive an additional $10,000 in debt forgiveness.

The cancellation applies to federal student loans used for undergraduate and graduate school, along with Parent Plus loans.

The 8th U.S. Court of Appeals adjourned the pardon plan on October 21 while it considers efforts by the states of Nebraska, Missouri, Iowa, Kansas, Arkansas and South Carolina to block the program.

While the temporary stay prevents the administration from actually writing off the debt, the White House has encouraged borrowers to continue applying for relief, saying the court order does not prevent applications or review of applications. register.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the administration disagreed with Thursday’s ruling and the Justice Department had filed an appeal. So far, 26 million people have applied for debt relief, she said, and 16 million have been approved for relief. The Department of Education will “quickly process their relief once we win the court case,” she said.

She said in the report.

Legal challenges have created confusion over whether borrowers scheduled to have their loans canceled will have to resume payments on January 1, when the COVID-19 pandemic pauses. about to expire.

Economists fear that many people have yet to recover financially from the pandemic, saying that if borrowers expecting debt cancellations are required to pay instead, many could be laid off and default on their loans. .

In his order on Thursday, Pittman said the Higher Education Relief for Students Act of 2003, commonly known as the HEROES Act, failed to provide a license for the debt forgiveness program the Biden administration claims. is done.

The law authorizes the Secretary of Education to “waive or amend any statutory or regulatory provision applicable to student financial aid programs… as the Secretary deems necessary in connection with the war or other military operations or national emergency.”

The administration argued that the student loan relief was therefore authorized as a measure in response to the national emergency over the pandemic. Pittman disagreed, finding that such a large import program required explicit congressional authorization. The HEROES Act “does not provide executive authority with explicit congressional authorization to create a $400 billion student loan forgiveness program,” he wrote.

Pittman also rejected government arguments that the plaintiffs bringing the case lacked standing. Plaintiffs Myra Brown and Alexander Taylor both have student loans, but Brown is not eligible for debt relief because her loans are held commercially and Taylor is not eligible for the full $20,000 because he We don’t get Pell’s grant.

The administration said it was not harmed by the debt forgiveness program and that “their unhappiness that some other borrowers are receiving greater benefits than they are” did not give them grounds to sue.

Pittman said they are harmed, however, because the government does not make public comment on eligibility requirements for the program, which means they are not given the opportunity to provide an opinion on a program that is not available. they will be at least partially excluded.

Predictably, the reaction to the ruling was mixed along the lines of political errors. The Center for Student Borrowers has deemed Pittman a “right-wing federal judge,” saying that “tens of millions of student loan borrowers across the country have now had their significant debt blocked as a result of of this stupid and fabricated legal claim.”

Congressman Virginia Foxx of North Carolina, a ranking Republican on the House education committee, celebrated it.

“However, another nail has been added to the coffin of President Biden’s illegal student relief package, and hard-working taxpayers around the country are rightfully rejoicing,” she said. . “This administration continues to operate as if it were its own self-appointed agency in transferring billions of dollars in student loans, but the rule of law says otherwise.”

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