Biden admin no longer accepting applications for student loan debt relief after judge ruled it unconstitutional

A federal judge in Texas this week ruled that President Joe Biden’s announced plan to forgive student loan debt was unconstitutional and, rather than merely block it with an injunction went ahead and vacated it in its entirety.

Now, in response to that ruling, the Biden administration has stopped accepting applications for relief from its debt forgiveness program, even as it has vowed to appeal the decision, CNBC reported.

The unconstitutional program now vacated

It was in August that President Biden announced that he would fulfill a campaign pledge, at least partially, to forgive outstanding student loans for some borrowers, including up to $10,000 for those with federal loans and up to $20,000 for low-income borrowers who received Pell Grants.

Two individuals with student loan debt who were not eligible for the relief sued under the claim that the administration had violated the Administrative Procedure Act by not going through the required notice-and-comment period and by overstepping its authority as delegated by Congress.

In a 26-page ruling, District Judge Mark Pittman recounted prior failed attempts by both the executive and legislative branches at student loan debt relief and even quoted House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) as saying that the president lacked the authority to forgive such debt, when she said during a press conference in July, “People think that the president of the United States has the power for debt forgiveness … He does not. He can postpone, he can delay, but he does not have that power. That has to be [accomplished through] an act of Congress.”

Ultimately, after analyzing various aspects of the complaints, the standing of the plaintiffs, motions by the government, and the program itself, among other things, Judge Pittman ultimately decided to not simply issue an injunction but to vacate the program altogether as unconstitutional.

“In this country, we are not ruled by an all-powerful executive with a pen and a phone. Instead, we are ruled by a Constitution that provides for three distinct and independent branches of government,” he wrote and proceeded to quote a warning from former President James Madison about how the accumulation of too much power in one of the three branches of government will inevitably result in tyranny.

No more applications accepted

Following Judge Pittman’s ruling, the Federal Student Aid website where people could apply for debt relief now bears a message that says, “Courts have issued orders blocking our student debt relief program. As a result, at this time, we are not accepting applications. We are seeking to overturn those orders.”

Also weighing in on the matter was Education Sec. Miguel Cardona, who said in a statement, “We believe strongly that the Biden-Harris Student Debt Relief Plan is lawful and necessary to give borrowers and working families breathing room as they recover from the pandemic and to ensure they succeed when repayment restarts.”

“We are disappointed in the decision of the Texas court to block loan relief moving forward. Amidst efforts to block our debt relief program, we are not standing down,” he added. “The Department of Justice has appealed today’s decision on our behalf, and we will continue to keep borrowers informed about our efforts to deliver targeted relief.”

Everything on hold pending appeal

According to that press release from Cardona, around 26 million borrowers had already submitted applications for debt relief, of which 16 million had already been approved and are essentially in a holding pattern prior to discharge pending the final resolution of this legal dispute, not to mention a separate state-led challenge that had already obtained an injunction against the program from the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Those previously submitted and approved applications may remain pending in perpetuity, however, as it seems unlikely that the appeals courts or Supreme Court will decide to uphold this clearly unconstitutional program for which the administration lacks any authority.

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