A federal judge in Texas decided on Thursday that President Joe Biden’s plan to cancel hundreds of billions of dollars in student loan debt was illegal and must be canceled, handing conservative opponents of the scheme a triumph.
US District Judge Mark Pittman, an appointee of former Republican President Donald Trump in Fort Worth, decided in a lawsuit filed on behalf of two borrowers by the Job Creators Network Foundation.
The debt relief plan was already temporarily halted by the 8th US Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis as it considered a request by six Republican-led states to enjoin it while they appealed the dismissal of their own lawsuit.
Several lawsuits have been filed against Biden’s plan by conservative state attorneys general and legal groups, though plaintiffs had struggled to convince courts that they were affected in such a way that they had standing to sue before Thursday.
Pittman wrote in a 26-page decision that the HEROES Act — a law that provides loan assistance to military personnel and on which the Biden administration relied to enact the relief plan — did not authorize the $400 billion student loan forgiveness program.
Pittman ruled, “The Program is clearly an illegal exercise of Congress’s legislative power and must be annulled.”
The White House and plaintiffs’ attorneys did not immediately reply to calls for comment.
In September, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that loan forgiveness would reduce around $430 billion of the $1.6 trillion in outstanding student debt, with over 40 million people eligible to benefit.
The plan, introduced in August, asks for borrowers earning less than $125,000 per year, or $250,000 for married couples, to have up to $10,000 in student loan debt forgiven. Borrowers who obtained Pell Grants for low-income college students will have up to $20,000 in debt forgiven.