US judge in Texas strikes down Biden loan-forgiveness plan

Nov 10, 2022, 6:40 PM | Updated: Nov 11, 2022, 1:17 pm
President Joe Biden speaks about student loan debt relief at Delaware State University, Friday, Oct...

President Joe Biden speaks about student loan debt relief at Delaware State University, Friday, Oct. 21, 2022, in Dover, Del. A U.S. judge in Texas on Thursday, Nov. 9, 2022, blocked Biden's plan to provide millions of borrowers with up to $20,000 apiece in federal student-loan forgiveness. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

(AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

A U.S. judge in Texas on Thursday blocked President Joe Biden’s plan to provide millions of borrowers with up to $20,000 apiece in federal student-loan forgiveness — a program that was already on hold as a 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 usurped Congress’ power to make laws.

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

He added: “The Court is not blind to the current political division in our country. But it is fundamental to the survival of our Republic that the separation of powers as outlined in our Constitution be preserved.”

The debt forgiveness plan would cancel $10,000 in student loan debt for those making less than $125,000 or households with less than $250,000 in income. Pell Grant recipients, who typically demonstrate more financial need, would get an additional $10,000 in debt forgiven.

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

The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had put the forgiveness plan on hold Oct. 21 while it considered an effort by the states of Nebraska, Missouri, Iowa, Kansas, Arkansas and South Carolina to block the program.

While the stay temporarily stopped the administration from actually clearing debt, the White House has encouraged borrowers to continue applying for relief, saying the court order did not prevent applications or the review of applications.

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

“The President and this Administration are determined to help working and middle-class Americans get back on their feet, while our opponents — backed by extreme Republican special interests — sued to block millions of Americans from getting much-needed relief,” she said in a statement.

The legal challenges have created confusion about whether borrowers who expected to have debt canceled will have to resume making payments come Jan. 1, when a pause prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic is set to expire.

Economists worry that many people have yet to rebound financially from the pandemic, saying that if borrowers who were expecting debt cancellation are asked to make payments instead, many could fall behind on the bills and default.

In his order Thursday, Pittman said the Higher Education Relief Opportunities for Students Act of 2003, commonly known as the HEROES Act, did not provide the authorization for the loan forgiveness program that the Biden administration claimed it did.

The law allows the secretary of education to “waive or modify any statutory or regulatory provision applicable to the student financial assistance programs … as the Secretary deems necessary in connection with a war or other military operation or national emergency.”

The administration argued that the student loan relief was thus authorized as a means of dealing with the national emergency of the pandemic. Pittman disagreed, finding that a program of such massive import required clear congressional authorization. The HEROES Act “does not provide the executive branch clear congressional authorization to create a $400 billion student loan forgiveness program,” he wrote.

Pittman also rejected the government’s arguments that the plaintiffs who brought the lawsuit lacked standing. Plaintiffs Myra Brown and Alexander Taylor both have student loans, but Brown is ineligible for debt relief because her loans are commercially held, and Taylor is not eligible for the full $20,000 because he didn’t receive a Pell grant.

The administration said they weren’t harmed by the loan forgiveness program and their “unhappiness that some other borrowers are receiving a greater benefit than they are” did not give them grounds to sue.

Pittman said they were harmed, however, because the government did not take public comment on eligibility requirements for the program, meaning they had no chance to provide input on a program they would be at least be partially excluded from.

Reaction to the ruling was predictably mixed along political fault lines. The Student Borrower Protection Center blasted Pittman as a “right-wing federal judge,” saying “tens of millions of student loan borrowers across the country now have their vital debt relief blocked as a result of this farcical and fabricated legal claim.”

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

“Yet another nail has been added to the coffin of President Biden’s illegal student loan bailout, and hardworking taxpayers across the country are rightfully rejoicing,” she said. “This administration continues to operate as if its own self-appointed authority in transferring billions of dollars in student loans is legitimate, but the rule of law says otherwise.”

___

Johnson reported from Seattle. Associated Press reporter Jim Salter contributed from St. Louis.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

A man waits for a traffic light to change, standing near monitors showing Japan's Nikkei 225 index ...
Associated Press

Asian shares gain, oil prices up after Russia price cap deal

Asian shares were mostly higher and oil prices rose Monday after the European Union and the Group of Seven democracies agreed on a boycott of most Russian oil and a price cap of $60 per barrel on Russian exports. Hong Kong’s benchmark jumped 3.7% and the Shanghai Composite added 1.6%. Hopes for fewer disruptions to […]
22 hours ago
This image released by Marvel Studios shows a scene from "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever." (Marvel ...
Associated Press

‘Wakanda Forever’ is No. 1 for 4th straight weekend

NEW YORK (AP) — “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” kept the box-office crown for the fourth straight weekend, and the comic holiday thriller “Violent Night” debuted with $13.3 million, according to studio estimates Sunday. But the biggest talking point on the weekend was a movie conspicuously absent from theaters. Had Netflix kept Rian Johnson’s whodunit sequel […]
22 hours ago
FILE - San Francisco Giants' Barry Bonds hits a single against the Chicago Cubs during the third in...
Associated Press

Bonds, Clemens left out of Hall again; McGriff elected

SAN DIEGO (AP) — Moments after Fred McGriff was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, almost two decades after his final game, he got the question. Asked if Barry Bonds belonged in Cooperstown, a smiling McGriff responded: “Honestly, right now, I’m going to just enjoy this evening.” A Hall of Fame committee delivered its […]
22 hours ago
FILE - Capital murder defendant and former U.S. Border Patrol Juan David Ortiz looks around the cou...
Associated Press

Jurors hear ex-Border Patrol agent’s confession in killings

SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Jurors in the capital murder trial of a former U.S. Border Patrol agent have heard a taped interview in which he confesses to the 2018 killings of four sex workers in South Texas. If convicted of capital murder, Juan David Ortiz, 39, faces life in prison without parole because prosecutors are […]
22 hours ago
FILE - A Twitter logo hangs outside the company's San Francisco offices on Nov. 1, 2022. A top Euro...
Associated Press

As Musk is learning, content moderation is a messy job

Now that he’s back on Twitter, neo-Nazi Andrew Anglin wants somebody to explain the rules. Anglin, the founder of an infamous neo-Nazi website, was reinstated Thursday, one of many previously banned users to benefit from an amnesty granted by Twitter’s new owner Elon Musk. The next day, Musk banished Ye, the rapper formerly known as […]
22 hours ago
FILE - In this photo taken by an individual not employed by the Associated Press and obtained by th...
Associated Press

Iran morality police status unclear after ‘closure’ comment

CAIRO (AP) — An Iranian lawmaker said Sunday that Iran’s government is “paying attention to the people’s real demands,” state media reported, a day after a top official suggested that the country’s morality police whose conduct helped trigger months of protests has been shut down. The role of the morality police, which enforces veiling laws, […]
22 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Prep the plumbing in your home just in time for the holidays

With the holidays approaching, it's important to know when your home is in need of heating and plumbing updates before more guests start to come around.
(Photo via MLB's Arizona Fall League / Twitter)...
Arizona Fall League

Top prospects to watch at this year’s Arizona Fall League

One of the most exciting elements of the MLB offseason is the Arizona Fall League, which began its 30th season Monday.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Here are 4 signs the HVAC unit needs to be replaced

Pool renovations and kitchen upgrades may seem enticing, but at the forefront of these investments arguably should be what residents use the most. In a state where summertime is sweltering, access to a functioning HVAC unit can be critical.
US judge in Texas strikes down Biden loan-forgiveness plan