Thursday, a federal court in Texas declared President Biden’s initiative to cancel student loans to be illegal.
A Trump appointee, District Judge Mark Pittman, found that the programme, which would have paid up to $20,000 in student loan relief to borrowers, was “an illegal exercise of Congress’ legislative power.”
The Biden administration has maintained that the Higher Education Relief Opportunities for Students Act of 2003 gives them the ability to cancel student loans. However, Pittman rejected this claim on Thursday, ruling that the programme lacked “clear legislative authorisation.”
The decision is a response to a lawsuit brought in October by the Job Creators Network Foundation, a conservative advocacy group, on behalf of a borrower who is disqualified for the relief programme and another who is not eligible for the entire $20,000 in relief funds.
The organisation maintained that the Department of Education lacked the jurisdiction to erase student loans under the HEROES Act and had failed to provide public notice and feedback on the programme.
Technically, as an agency, the Department of Education obtains rulemaking authority from Congress. Since the subject of student loan forgiveness is of great “economic and political significance,” Pittman determined that the agency is obliged to demonstrate that it has explicit permission from Congress for the programme; he decided that it does not.
“It is not the responsibility of this court to evaluate whether the Program represents the sound public policy,” Pittman stated in his opinion. In the history of the United States, it is either one of the greatest transfers of legislative power to the executive branch or one of the largest exercises of legislative power without congressional authorization.
The verdict on Thursday marked the greatest triumph so far for conservative opponents of the debt relief scheme of the Biden administration.
In late October, a federal appeals court temporarily suspended the programme in response to a lawsuit by six Republican-led states. However, the finding of the appeals court simply halted the programme pending the outcome of the states’ appeal; it did not invalidate the programme completely.
Biden’s debt relief scheme would eliminate up to $10,000 in student loans for low-income students and up to $20,000 for Pell Grant recipients.