The latest ruling came from a federal court in Fort Worth through a lawsuit filed by the conservative small-business advocacy group Job Creators Network Foundation. The suit, filed on behalf of two federal student loan borrowers named Myra Brown and Alexander Taylor, argues that people were unable to voice their concerns about the program, which made it unfair.
If it ever is implemented, Biden's plan would forgive up to $20,000 in loans for people who received Pell grants, and $10,000 for those who received other loans. Households making up to $250,000 and individuals making up to $125,000 would be eligible.
Brown isn’t eligible for any relief. Taylor could get up to $10,000 forgiven, but he’s upset about the program because he can’t get the full $20,000 offered to people who received Pell grants. The two argue that had they had the chance to comment on the program before it was rolled out, it might have been structured differently and they would have been eligible.
To that, the Biden administration points back to the HEROES Act, which it used to try to make loan forgiveness happen. It’s a law that was passed after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack that gives the government some special powers during national emergencies. One of those powers is “sweeping authority” to reduce or cancel student debt, and the Biden administration is arguing that the COVID-19 pandemic is the national emergency that allows the government to use this power. It’s the HEROES Act that keeps the administration from having to obtain Congressional approval.
But Judge Mark T. Pittman, appointed by former President Donald Trump, didn’t buy this argument, calling the student loan relief plan unconstitutional.
"In this country, we are not ruled by an all-powerful executive with a pen and a phone," Pittman wrote. "Instead, we are ruled by a Constitution that provides for three distinct and independent branches of government."
Elaine Parker, president of Job Creators Network Foundation, said in a written statement that the court was right to declare the plan illegal. “This ruling protects the rule of law which requires all Americans to have their voices heard by their federal government,” Parker said.
"In this country, we are not ruled by an all-powerful executive with a pen and a phone." – Judge Mark T. Pittman
During a press conference, White House Spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters that the administration strongly disagreed with the judge’s ruling.
"The president and this administration are determined to help working and middle-class Americans get back on their feet, while our opponents – backed by extreme Republican special interests – sued to block millions of Americans from getting much-needed relief,” Pierre said.
Some people opposed to the student debt relief plan have been called out for taking loans from the paycheck protection program and having them forgiven. As reported by The Intercept, one of the plaintiffs in the suit, Myra Brown, received a $48,000 PPP loan, most of which was later forgiven. But Parker told The Intercept that Biden's plan isn't comparable to the paycheck protection program because the latter went through Congress and it provided an avenue for loan forgiveness if certain criteria were met
The latest ruling has already been appealed.
The Biden administration has been racing to settle suits against its student loan relief plan before loan repayments resume in January. It's becoming less clear whether the administration will be able to pull this off. The administration's appeal will be taken up by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. If it's not settled there, the case could be brought to the Supreme Court.