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The Biden Administration Is Appealing After A Judge Ordered It To End To The Student Loan Forgiveness Plan

A federal judge declared on Thursday that President Joe Biden’s plan to forgive student loan debt for millions of Americans is unconstitutional and ordered the program to be dissolved.

In a 26-page order, US District Judge Mark Pittman, an appointee of former president Donald Trump, ruled that the Biden administration did not have “clear congressional authorization” to create the program, which is estimated to eliminate about $430 billion in student debt for more than 40 million people. The case in question was filed by two borrowers who did not qualify for the relief and is one of several lawsuits filed by opponents of the plan.

In a statement Thursday night, Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said the administration is appealing the ruling.

“We believe strongly that the Biden-Harris Student Debt Relief Plan is lawful and necessary to give borrowers and working families breaking room as they recover from the pandemic and to ensure they succeed when repayment starts,” he said.

More than 26 million people have already signed up for the program, and 16 million applications have been approved. If an appeal is successful, loan servicers could move forward with discharging their debt.

The White House and the Department of Education did not immediately respond to BuzzFeed News’ requests for comment. They could seek to appeal Thursday’s decision, and in the past, the administration has vowed to fight the attempts to shut down the loan forgiveness program.

In August, Biden announced that the government would forgive up to $10,000 in federal student loan debt for Americans making less than $125,000 per year, fulfilling a campaign promise to ease the economic suffering of the millions of people saddled with outstanding debt from loans they took out for school.

According to court documents, the Department of Education was relying on the Higher Education Relief Opportunities for Students Act of 2003, a law that allows the education secretary to “waive or modify any statutory or regulatory provision applicable to the student financial assistance programs” in the event of war, a military operation, or a national emergency.

In invoking the authority provided under the law, Cardona deemed that the relief program warranted a waiver because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which was declared a national emergency by Trump in 2020.

While Pittman agreed that the pandemic did qualify as a national emergency under the act, he questioned whether the law was intended to authorize loan forgiveness. He also said it was “unclear” whether the relief program was necessary and if the pandemic was still, in fact, an emergency.

“Whether the Program constitutes good public policy is not the role of this Court to determine,” Pittman wrote. “Still, 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.”

An appeals court had temporarily blocked the program last month as it considers a separate case filed by six Republican-led states for an injunction.

In a statement Thursday, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre called out the “extreme Republican special interests” behind the legal opposition to the forgiveness plan.

“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,” she said.

BuzzFeed News reporter Anna Betts contributed to this story.

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