The Pacific Legal Foundation filed an emergency application on Tuesday asking the Supreme Court to stop the Biden administration from executing its policy to cancel $10,000 in student debt for millions of borrowers.
The nonprofit legal organization argued that permitting the White House to enact the measure without judicial review would “invite similar mischief from future administrations on myriad other issues.” The student loan cancellation plan would also forgive up to $20,000 for students who attended college using Pell Grants.
“The administration is attempting to erase half a trillion dollars in debt without any legal basis,” Pacific Legal Foundation Caleb Kruckenberg remarked in a press release. “The Court ought to put the brakes on this lawless action while it’s considered by the courts.”
The court system has previously nixed some attempts to block the student loan cancellation policy. Justice Amy Coney Barrett rejected an emergency appeal filed by the Brown County Taxpayers Association in Wisconsin, likely because the plaintiffs lacked sufficient legal standing to challenge the policy.
District Judge Henry Autrey in the Eastern District of Missouri said that his court lacked jurisdiction to hear a separate lawsuit from six Republican attorneys general, prompting the officials to seek immediate relief from the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. The court indeed ordered the White House to refrain from canceling student debt on October 21, granting an administrative stay while judges consider the lawsuit.
Critics of the student loan policy, which include many fellow liberals, contend that Biden lacks the authority to unilaterally erase as much as $500 billion in debt without approval from Congress. The Pacific Legal Foundation likewise claimed that the Department of Education has failed to issue any formal rules or “other legally binding explanation” of the student debt cancellation program.
“At no point has the government made a plausible argument that the underlying policy is legal,” Pacific Legal Foundation attorney Michael Poon added. “The administration’s ‘lawmaking by press release’ is clearly unconstitutional.”
A separate complaint filed by the organization contended that President Joe Biden’s use of the HEROES Act, a 2003 law meant to aid Iraq War veterans and their families, as justification for the loan elimination occurred with “breathtaking informality and opacity.”
Biden, however, announced last month that more than 22 million people have already applied for student loan relief. “My commitment when I ran for President of the United States: that if I was elected, I’d make the government work and deliver for the people,” he said during remarks at Delaware State University, an historically black college. “A simple application process keeps that commitment, just as I’m keeping my commitment to relieve student debt as borrowers recover from the economic crisis caused by the once-in-a-lifetime pandemic.”
Though the commander-in-chief claimed that “not a dime” will benefit the top 5% of earners, data have indicated that student loan forgiveness largely helps individuals who are poised to earn the most from their degrees, as graduate-level education is often necessary for the most lucrative professions. A report from the Brookings Institution observed that one-third of student debt is owed by the wealthiest 20% of households, while only 8% is owned by the bottom 20%.