Federal judge blocks Student Loan Forgiveness program, White House responds: 'strongly disagree'

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Saturday, November 12, 2022
Federal judge blocks Student Loan Forgiveness program
A federal judge has blocked the Biden administration's student loan forgiveness program, delivering another blow to the policy.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- A federal judge has blocked the Biden administration's student loan forgiveness program, delivering another blow to the policy.

Thursday, U.S. district judge T. Mark Pittman, an appointee of former President Donald Trump, wrote in part:

"No one can plausibly deny that it is either one of the largest delegations of legislative power to the executive branch, or one of the largest exercises of legislative power without congressional authority in the history of the United States."

"The crux of the case is whether the Department of Education has the statutory authority to do this, and it very clearly doesn't," said Jeanette Doran, President of the North Carolina Institute for Constitutional Law.

"It's devastating. It's really devastating to think there are judges in this country who are more ideologically-driven than fact-based. It was clear that neither plaintiff had standing, and it was clear that their arguments there were no merits to their case. It's very clear that the President has the ability to use the HEROES Act to provide student loan debt relief," countered Melissa Byrne, founder of We the 45 Million, an advocacy organization which supports student loan cancellation.

Regarding the HEROES Act, Pittman wrote it does not provide "clear congressional authorization for the Program proposed by the Secretary (of Education)."

"I hate setbacks. I like to win, because I know that these wins help people. And I hate the idea that there are people out there around this country who are just despondent and sad about this. Sad that the court system doesn't see them as having any value," said Byrne.

The program called on 'forgiving' $10,000 in student debt loans, and $20,000 for Pell Grant recipients, available to those who earn less than $125,000 annually or households earning less than $250,000. It also extended a final pause on student loan repayments through the rest of the year, and capped repayment plans for undergraduate loans at 5% of monthly income.

However, shortly after its announcement, it faced pushback from detractors, who questioned both the specific qualifiers and overall legality.

"I was frankly surprised by just how bold the President was in ignoring the very clear separation of powers problems he was going to have with this," Doran explained.

The White House said the Department of Justice has filed an appeal. In a statement, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre wrote:

"We strongly disagree with the District Court's ruling on our student debt relief program and the Department of Justice has filed an appeal. (President Biden) 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.
For the 26 million borrowers who've given the Department of Education the necessary information to be considered for debt relief - 16 million of whom have already been approved for relief - the Department will hold onto their info, so it can quickly process their relief once we prevail in court. We will never stop fighting for hardworking Americans most in need - no matter how many roadblocks our opponents and special interests try to put in our way.

"This crisis has gotten so big that we're at this place now where they see this as 'this is a big problem. It's untenable,'" said Byrne.

The lawsuit was filed by the Job Creators Network Foundation, a Texas-based non-profit whose President Elaine Parker wrote:

"The court has correctly ruled in favor of our motion and deemed the Biden student loan program illegal. The judge criticized the Biden Administration program, calling it 'one of the largest exercises of legislative power without congressional authority in the history of the United States.' This ruling protects the rule of law which requires all Americans to have their voices heard by their federal government. This attempted illegal student loan bailout would have done nothing to address the root cause of unaffordable tuition: greedy and bloated colleges that raise tuition far more than inflation year after year while sitting on $700 billion in endowments. We hope that the court's decision today will lay the groundwork for real solutions to the student loan crisis."

"The statute that the Biden administration was relying on doesn't really fit and can't be sued to justify a $400 billion loan forgiveness program," said Doran.

Doran notes the White House has the option to try and pass legislation to address student debt relief, but cast doubt on an appeal.

"I don't see that there's a snowball's chance of an appeal in this case being successful," said Doran.