Federal Judge Orders End to Student Debt Relief Plan

November 11, 2022 by Tom Ramstack
Federal Judge Orders End to Student Debt Relief Plan
The Princeton University campus. (Photo by Dan McCue)

DALLAS, Texas — A federal judge in Texas on Thursday blocked the Biden administration’s plan to wipe out as much as $20,000 in student debt for millions of borrowers.

He said the plan exceeds the authority of the president without first getting legislative approval from Congress.

He called the $400 billion debt forgiveness plan an “unconstitutional exercise of Congress’ legislative power.”

The Justice Department appealed the ruling on the same day Judge Mark Pittman of the Northern District of Texas issued it.


“We will never stop fighting for hard-working Americans most in need — no matter how many roadblocks our opponents and special interests try to put in our way,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement.

Other criticism of the debt forgiveness plan came from Republicans, who said it would add to the nation’s already high inflation rate.

The judge’s ruling responded to a lawsuit filed by two student loan borrowers who sued after failing to qualify for the debt forgiveness. One had private — rather than government — loans while the other was not a Pell Grant recipient.

Pell Grants refer to money the federal government gives to students in financial need to help them pay their tuition.

The plaintiffs argued the loan forgiveness program violated the Administrative Procedure Act’s notice and comment requirements and made arbitrary decisions about who qualifies for debt relief.

The Biden administration plan would cancel as much as $10,000 of student debt for borrowers who make less than $125,000 a year. They could get up to $20,000 in loan forgiveness if they received Pell Grants.

The plan would cancel student loans for as many as 16 million borrowers.


It ran into its first roadblock when Republicans in six states and conservative groups sued to stop it, prompting a federal judge in St. Louis, Missouri, to order a pause on the program last month while the court considered whether the plaintiffs have a right to sue.

The ruling Thursday went further, ordering a permanent end to the program.

“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,” Pittman wrote in his 26-page order.

The Biden administration drew authority from the 2003 federal HEROES Act, which authorizes the Education Department to cancel or modify federal student loans during war or a national emergency. The HEROES Act was designed to provide loan assistance to members of the U.S. military.

The national emergency for the student debt forgiveness plan was the COVID-19 pandemic, Biden said when he announced the program in August.

Pittman disagreed, writing that the HEROES Act “does not provide the executive branch clear congressional authorization to create a $400 billion student loan forgiveness program.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., gave delayed support to the debt forgiveness program after first saying approval for it should have come from Congress.

Pittman followed similar reasoning when he wrote, “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.”

The ruling won praise from the conservative Job Creators Network Foundation, which said in a statement, “This ruling protects the rule of law which requires all Americans to have their voices heard by their federal government.”


The case is Myra Brown et al. v. U.S. Department of Education et al. in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas.

Tom can be reached at [email protected] and @TomRamstack

A+
a-

In The News

Health

Voting

Education

January 17, 2023
by Kate Michael
Student Mental Health Surveys Forecast College Retention Troubles

WASHINGTON — Perhaps the highest percentage to date — 76% — of undergraduate college students surveyed in a 2021 Gallup... Read More

WASHINGTON — Perhaps the highest percentage to date — 76% — of undergraduate college students surveyed in a 2021 Gallup poll suggested that they have considered dropping out of college due to mental health concerns. This statistic was recently shared during a conversation of experts working... Read More

January 10, 2023
by Dan McCue
Former Rep. Elaine Luria Named Georgetown Spring Fellow

WASHINGTON — Former Democratic Rep. Elaine Luria, of Virginia, will be a fellow at Georgetown University this spring, sharing her... Read More

WASHINGTON — Former Democratic Rep. Elaine Luria, of Virginia, will be a fellow at Georgetown University this spring, sharing her experiences as a member of the House Select Committee to Investigate the Jan. 6 Attack on the U.S. Capitol over eight weekly lectures. In a tweet... Read More

Feds Propose 'Student Loan Safety Net' Alongside Forgiveness

WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House is moving forward with a proposal that would lower student debt payments for millions... Read More

WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House is moving forward with a proposal that would lower student debt payments for millions of Americans now and in the future, offering a new route to repay federal loans under far more generous terms. President Joe Biden announced the repayment... Read More

January 9, 2023
by Dan McCue
Ben Sasse Makes It Official, Leaves Senate

WASHINGTON — Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., officially resigned from the Senate on Sunday to become the next president of the... Read More

WASHINGTON — Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., officially resigned from the Senate on Sunday to become the next president of the University of Florida. Sasse, who previously led Midland University, a small private college in Fremont, Nebraska, submitted his resignation last month saying he would leave office... Read More

December 1, 2022
by Dan McCue
Supreme Court to Hear Challenge to Biden Student Loan Program

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Thursday agreed to decide whether President Joe Biden can proceed with his student loan... Read More

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Thursday agreed to decide whether President Joe Biden can proceed with his student loan forgiveness program, saying it will hear oral arguments in February, with the date to be determined. As is their custom, the justices did not explain their... Read More

November 22, 2022
by Dan McCue
Administration Extends Student Loan Payment Pause Through June

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration on Tuesday afternoon extended its pause of federal student loan repayments to June 30, 2023,... Read More

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration on Tuesday afternoon extended its pause of federal student loan repayments to June 30, 2023, saying the move was necessary to give the U.S. Supreme Court time to rule in a case challenging the program. “I'm confident that our student debt... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top