But the latest decision goes much further by permanently banning the Ministry of Education from carrying out the entire program.
The Biden administration moved quickly Thursday night to file an appeal. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said administration officials “strongly disagree” with the decision and will continue to defend the debt relief program in court.
“The president and this administration are committed to helping working and middle class America get back on their feet, while our adversaries — backed by extreme Republican special interests — have taken legal action to keep millions of Americans out of ‘get much-needed relief,’ she said in a statement.
It was not immediately clear whether the ministry would be forced to stop accepting new applications for the debt relief program because of the ruling.
The Biden administration has approved 16 million requests for student debt relief, according to the department. Many of those rulings have been sent to the agency’s contracted loan managers, who have been instructed to suspend the reduction of borrowers’ loan accounts amid legal battles.
Jean-Pierre said the Department of Education would “store” the information it has for 26 million borrowers who have already applied for debt relief or have been identified by the agency as automatically eligible, “so that he can quickly process their relief once we win in court.”
The new legal roadblock for the Biden administration comes a day after the president credited student debt relief as one of the issues that led to high young voter turnout for Democrats in the midterm election. – mandate for this week.
“I especially want to thank the young people of this nation,” Biden said, adding that they “voted in historic numbers.” These young voters, he said, “voted to continue to fight the climate crisis, gun violence, their personal rights and freedoms, and student debt relief.”
The decision throws the debt relief program into limbo just weeks before Georgia’s runoff election in December, which could end up deciding Senate control. Debt relief was already a point of contention between Sen. Rafael Warnock, who campaigned on the issue, and Herschel Walker, who criticized Biden’s program as a handout for people who don’t need it. .
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer struck down Pittman as a “MAGA judge” who “sides with special interests on what is best for the people”. He added, “That’s why we need a Democratic majority in the Senate.”
Conservatives, meanwhile, welcomed the decision. Representative Virginia Foxx, the lead GOP legislator on the House Education Committee, said in a statement that “Biden’s radical plan must be fully gutted, and Republicans will continue to support legal challenges to achieve this goal”.
In his 26-page ruling, Judge Pittman rejected the Biden administration’s argument that it has the power to cancel student loans under a 2003 law, known as the HEROES Act, which grants special powers to the Ministry of Education in the event of a national emergency.
“It is not the role of this Court to determine whether the program constitutes good public policy,” Pittman wrote. “Nevertheless, no one can plausibly deny that this is either one of the largest delegations of legislative power to the executive or one of the largest exercises of legislative power without congressional authority in the history of the United States.”
His decision sided with a conservative advocacy group, the Job Creators Network Foundation, which had sued to end the policy on behalf of two student borrowers who had been barred from the program or who did not. would not be entitled to the full $20,000 rebate.
Those borrowers had standing to sue, Pittman said, because they were aggrieved by the Department of Education’s failure to give them an opportunity to comment on the proposal. “The plaintiffs have a concrete interest in having their debts canceled to a greater extent,” he wrote.
Elaine Parker, president of the Job Creators Network Foundation, celebrated the decision, calling it a victory for “the rule of law that demands that all Americans have their voices heard by their federal government.”
Josh Gerstein contributed to this report