The lawsuit accuses President Biden of overstepping his authority in directing the government to cancel as much as $20,000 in student loan debt for millions of people.
Send any friend a story
As a subscriber, you have 10 gift articles to give each month. Anyone can read what you share.
Give this articleGive this articleGive this article
By Michael D. Shear
Sept. 29, 2022, 3:27 p.m. ET
WASHINGTON — Six Republican-led states took legal action Thursday to block President Biden from wiping away billions of dollars in student loan debt, even as the administration tried to avoid a court challenge by reducing the number of people eligible for relief.
A lawsuit filed in federal court by Leslie Rutledge, the Republican attorney general of Arkansas, accuses Mr. Biden of vastly overstepping his authority last month when he announced the government would forgive as much as $20,000 in student loan debt, a far-reaching move that the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated could cost $400 billion over the course of the next three decades.
“President Biden’s unlawful political play puts the self-wrought college-loan debt on the backs of millions of hardworking Americans who are struggling to pay their utility bills and home loans in the midst of Biden’s inflation,” Ms. Rutledge said in a statement on Thursday. “President Biden does not have the power to arbitrarily erase the college debt of adults who chose to take out those loans.”
The states of Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, South Carolina and Nebraska joined the lawsuit, which attacks Mr. Biden’s claim that the debt relief is justified by a federal law authorizing actions during a health emergency like the coronavirus pandemic. The Republican officials in those states note that Mr. Biden recently declared the pandemic to be over in an interview with “60 Minutes” on CBS.
Abdullah Hasan, a White House spokesman, said the lawsuit is attempting to stop Mr. Biden from providing much-needed relief to people who are struggling in the wake of the pandemic.
“Republican officials from these six states are standing with special interests and fighting to stop relief for borrowers buried under mountains of debt,” Mr. Hasan said. “The president and his administration are lawfully giving working- and middle-class families breathing room as they recover from the pandemic and prepare to resume loan payments in January.”
The lawsuit, first reported by The Associated Press, is the second attempt this week to shut down the loan forgiveness program, which is one of the president’s major achievements during nearly two years in office. On Tuesday, a conservative legal group filed a lawsuit seeking to block debt cancellation, saying the program would force people to pay taxes on the debt that was forgiven.
Before the latest legal challenges, the Education Department on Thursday announced that it would no longer forgive the debt for students with federal student loans that are held by private companies. Eliminating eligibility for those students could make it harder for the Republican attorneys general to successfully attack the entire program in court.
There are only about 770,000 people who hold that kind of debt, out of about 40 million who would still be able to apply for relief, according to officials. Students with federal student loans would be eligible for $10,000 in relief, while those with Pell grants for people from low-income families would be able to apply for $20,000 in debt cancellation.