November 10 (Reuters) – A Texas federal judge ruled on Thursday that President Joe Biden’s plan to write off hundreds of billions of dollars in student loan debt was illegal and should be reversed, handing a victory to conservative opponents of the program .
U.S. District Judge Mark Pittman, appointed by former Republican President Donald Trump in Fort Worth, called the scheme an ‘unconstitutional exercise of the legislative power of Congress’ as he ruled in favor of two group-backed borrowers conservative defense.
The White House had no immediate comment.
The debt relief plan had already been temporarily blocked by the St. Louis-based 8th Circuit Court of Appeals as it considers a request for six Republican-led states to enjoin him as they appealed the dismissal of their own lawsuit.
The judge’s decision came in a lawsuit brought by two borrowers partially or fully ineligible for Biden’s proposed loan forgiveness plan. Plaintiffs argued that it failed to follow proper rule-making processes and was illegal.
The borrowers were backed by the Job Creators Network Foundation, a conservative advocacy group founded by Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus (HD.N).
Biden’s plan has been the subject of several lawsuits by attorneys general and conservative legal groups, but plaintiffs before Thursday had struggled to convince the courts that they had been harmed by it in such a way that they had standing to pursue.
The plan, announced in August, calls for forgiveness of up to $10,000 in student loan debt for borrowers earning less than $125,000 a year, or $250,000 for married couples. Borrowers who received Pell Grants to benefit low-income students will see up to $20,000 of their debt forgiven.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office calculated in September that debt cancellation eliminate about $430 billion of the $1.6 trillion in outstanding student debt and that more than 40 million people were eligible to benefit.
In his 26 page decisionPittman said it was irrelevant that Biden’s plan was good public policy because the program was “one of the greatest exercises of legislative power without congressional authority in US history.” .
Pittman wrote that the HEROES Act — a law that provides loan relief to military personnel and which the Biden administration relied on to enact the relief plan — did not authorize the loan cancellation program. 400 billion dollar student.
“In this country, we are not ruled by an all-powerful executive with a pen and a phone,” Pittman wrote. “Instead, we are governed by a Constitution which provides for three separate and independent branches of government.”
Elaine Parker, president of the Job Creators Network Foundation, said in a statement that the ruling “protects the rule of law that requires all Americans to have their voices heard by their federal government.”
Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; Editing by Sandra Maler, Rosalba O’Brien and Kenneth Maxwell
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