Federal appeals court temporarily blocks Biden student loan forgiveness program
A federal appeals court has temporarily blocked President Biden’s student loan forgiveness program from continuing following an appeal from six GOP-led states.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit ruled Friday that the policy to cancel thousands of dollars in student loan debt should be put on hold while challenges play out.
The Biden administration must respond to the case before the appeals court by Monday evening.
Biden’s plan would cancel up to $10,000 in federal student loan debt for borrowers earning less than $125,000 per year. Those who received Pell Grants could receive up to $20,000 in relief.
The ruling comes after a federal district judge dismissed the states’ lawsuit on Thursday, ruling that they did not have standing to sue.
The president announced earlier on Friday that more than 22 million people had applied for student loan debt forgiveness following the application’s release on Monday. It’s unclear at this time how long the legal challenges will play out. However, student loan payments will resume at the beginning of next year after both former President Trump and Biden extended loan freezes during the pandemic.
The attorneys general originally filed the lawsuit in September, arguing that the Biden administration does not have the authority to cancel the debt because Congress did not authorize it.
But U.S. District Judge Henry Autry ruled that they did not demonstrate they are directly harmed by the relief, which is needed to meet the standard of having standing. He did note that they presented “important and significant” challenges to Biden’s plan.
Multiple legal challenges have been filed to the loan forgiveness plan. Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett rejected an emergency bid from a group of Wisconsin taxpayers to block the plan on Thursday.
The Biden administration has argued that it is authorized to cancel debt through the Higher Education Relief Opportunities for Students Act of 2003. The legislation allows the secretary of Education to cancel debt to student loan borrowers in times of “national emergency.”
The White House vowed to oppose GOP efforts to stop the president’s forgiveness plan from going forward in response to the ruling Friday.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the ruling does not stop borrowers from applying for relief or the government from reviewing applications. The administration just cannot distribute relief until the appeals court issues a ruling on the case.
And in remarks from the Delaware State University on Friday, the president took aim at Republicans who argue that giving borrowers debt relief is undeserved.
“Ted Cruz, the great senator from Texas, he said it’s for slackers — quote slackers — who don’t deserve relief. Who the hell do they think they are?” Biden said.
“I don’t want to hear it from MAGA Republican officials who had hundreds of thousands of dollars of debts, even millions of dollars, in pandemic relief loans forgiven, who now are attacking me for helping working- and middle-class Americans,” he added.
Updated at 9:19 p.m.
—The Associated Press contributed to this report.