WASHINGTON — Six Republican-led states took legal action Thursday to stop President Biden from cleaning out billions of dollars in student loan debt.
The lawsuit filed in federal court by Arkansas Republican Attorney General Leslie Rutledge Blame Biden He went far beyond his authority last month when the government announced it would forgive student loan debt of up to $20,000 per person. It’s a far-reaching move estimated by the bipartisan Congressional Budget Office to cost him $400 billion over the next 30 years.
“President Biden’s illegal political play puts self-made college loans on the backs of millions of hard-working Americans struggling to pay their utility bills and mortgages in the midst of Biden’s inflation. It’s putting us in debt,” Rutledge said in a statement. Thursday. “President Biden does not have the authority to arbitrarily erase the college debt of adults who choose to take out loans.”
and news release On Thursday night, the Department of Education released its own estimate of the cost of the program. $30 billion a year for 10 years and over the life of the program he’s $379 billion. Department officials said they estimated about 81% of eligible borrowers would apply for relief. (The CBO estimated that as many as 90% would be covered, but White House officials initially downplayed that figure.)
Government officials argue that the annual cost of a program is a more effective measure than the total cost over several years, citing uncertainty in the student loan market and economy.
Shortly after Biden announced the program in late August, White House officials said the cost would be about $24 billion annuallyBut on Thursday night, government officials were accepting the Department of Education’s estimates.
A legal challenge could delay one of Biden’s signings just weeks before the midterm elections, which will determine who will control Congress for the rest of the president’s term. About 40 million people with outstanding college loans could benefit under the president’s plan, even after the government cut about 700,000 borrowers from the program on Thursday to avoid lawsuits.
What You Need to Know About Student Loan Debt Relief
Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, South Carolina and Nebraska Join Lawsuit, Debt Relief Justified by Federal Law Authorizing Action During Health Emergencies Like Coronavirus Pandemic Biden’s allegations are being attacked.
Republican officials in those states noted that Mr. Biden recently declared the pandemic over in an interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes.”
White House spokesman Abdullah Hassan said the lawsuit seeks to stop Biden from providing much-needed relief to those suffering from the effects of the pandemic.
“Republican officials in these six states are standing up for special interests and fighting to prevent bailouts of debt-ridden borrowers,” Hassan said. “The president and his administration are legally giving working and middle-class families a breather while they recover from the pandemic and prepare to resume loan payments in January.”
The lawsuit first reported It’s the second attempt this week to close the loan forgiveness program, according to the Associated Press, and it’s one of the president’s major accomplishments during his nearly two-year tenure. It filed a lawsuit to try to block the forgiveness, saying the program would force people to pay taxes on the forgiven debt.
The latest legal challenge comes after the education ministry announced Thursday that it would no longer allow student debt. Federal student loans held by private companiesDisqualifying these students could make it harder for Republican Attorneys General to successfully attack the entire program in court.
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Of the roughly 40 million people who can apply for relief, only about 770,000 have such debts, officials say. Students on federal student loans are eligible for $10,000 relief, and students on Pell grants for people from low-income families apply for $20,000 debt forgiveness. I can do it.
Mr. Biden spent more than a year debating his new policies last month before announcing them, fulfilling campaign promises that helped him win support from progressives and students.
But the decision angered many conservatives. Biden alleges he is shifting a huge financial burden from students who took out loans to taxpayers who paid for college without taking out loans, or who chose not to go to college in the first place. did. place.
The president’s move to forgive student debt has also drawn criticism from some liberals. Some liberals argue that it hasn’t gone far enough, while others say the plan will write off the debt of some students wealthy enough to pay their loans. .return.
Administration officials said the president has legal powers to cancel debts under a 2003 law known as the Heroes Act. The act gave the secretary of education the power to waive regulations related to student loans during wartime or during a national emergency. The declared state of emergency is still going on.
Student Loan Debt Relief Details
A lawsuit by Republican officials alleges that the originators of the Heroes Act never intended it to be used for anything like national debt relief. In a brief letter filed, state officials noted that the law had previously been used to relinquish bureaucratic rules related to student loans to active-duty military personnel.
“There is no law that would allow President Biden to unilaterally release millions of individuals from paying their loans voluntarily underwritten,” briefs argued. “When the Heroes Act was passed, it is inconceivable that Congress thought it was authorizing something like sweeping government debt cancellation that would cost the Federal Treasury about $5 trillion or more. ”
One of the first hurdles for Republican officials is to establish a “position” to challenge the president’s policies by showing that state interests will suffer if student debt forgiveness is implemented. If the court finds the civil servant ineligible, the case will not proceed.
Republican state officials argue that Mr. Biden’s policy change will hurt private companies in the state that provide federal student loans. As a result, it may become more difficult for state residents to obtain loans to attend college.
Politically, a lawsuit by Republican officials could rob Biden and the Democrats of a crucial victory just weeks before the midterm elections. Many parts of the president’s coalition, especially young people, were energized by his announcement.
But there is evidence that the president’s policy of canceling debt disproportionately benefits low- and middle-income earners in the South and rural areas. The highest is in Washington DC. North Carolina; Georgia; South Carolina; Alabama; Mississippi; and West Virginia.
On Thursday, despite a lawsuit filed by Republican officials, the Biden administration moved forward, releasing new details on how students can apply for debt forgiveness and using social media to promote the program.
In a series of tweets from the official White House Twitter account, the administration said those with student loans can apply from October 2022 through December 31, 2023, urging students to do so.
“Your application will be short and simple,” said one of the tweets. “You don’t need to log in with your FSA ID or upload supporting documents.”
Katie Rogers contributed to the report.