President Joe Biden announced in late August, via executive action and without any explicit authority from Congress, that his administration would “cancel” anywhere from $10,000-20,000 in federal student loan debt for millions of borrowers — an act that would shift that financial burden, which could be as much as half a trillion dollars, to taxpayers.
The Biden administration is now facing no less than three separate lawsuits challenging the likely unconstitutional nature of that federal student loan debt relief as being both illegal and unfair, the Daily Wire reported.
For what it is worth, the Biden administration has claimed authority for its debt relief actions via a post-9/11 law known as the Higher Education Relief Opportunities for Students, or HEROES Act, which was passed in 2003 and was narrowly intended to help active-duty military service members bypass normal bureaucratic red tape to receive debt relief in a time of war or major national disaster.
Biden lacks authority for student loan debt cancelation
One of the lawsuits was filed Thursday by Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich (R), who said in a statement, “This mass debt forgiveness program is fundamentally unfair, unconstitutional, and unwise,” and added, “The question Americans need to be asking is why college costs so much in the first place.”
He argued that the HEROES Act did not extend authority to President Biden’s administration for any sort of widespread student loan debt relief, as it was only meant to help those suffering financial hardship due to active-duty service in a war or for those residing in a declared disaster area during a national emergency.
Brnovich further asserted that the administration has substantially stretched that otherwise narrow authority to ostensibly apply to the COVID-19 pandemic, even though all repayment obligations have been suspended and zero interest has been applied since the beginning of the pandemic, meaning those with outstanding debt have not suffered any financial hardship because of that debt.
A similar tack was taken by the attorneys general of six Republican-led states — led by Nebraska and joined by Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and South Carolina — with a lawsuit of their own filed on the same day.
“In addition to being economically unwise and downright unfair, the Biden Administration’s Mass Debt Cancellation is yet another example in a long line of unlawful regulatory actions,” the lawsuit said. “No statute permits President Biden to unilaterally relieve millions of individuals from their obligation to pay loans they voluntarily assumed.”
The AGs further noted that no less than House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and even Biden’s own Education Department had previously, and correctly, noted that Congress needed to explicitly authorize the sort of debt relief now being offered, and that even if the cited HEROES Act did permit the sort of debt relief Biden has offered, Biden’s plan would likely run afoul of that law’s particular requirements.
“The Biden Administration’s Mass Debt Cancellation does not even attempt to meet these requirements. It instead justifies relief for all borrowers whose debt the Administration holds based on talismanic reference to the COVID-19 pandemic,” the lawsuit stated. “It makes no difference to the Administration’s cancellation whether the pandemic rendered a borrower better or worse off or how much financial harm the borrower suffered in relation to her loans.”
Lawsuit on behalf of an individual
Finally, there is a lawsuit filed by the Pacific Legal Foundation on behalf of an employee with student loan debt who, as a resident of Indiana, would actually be financially harmed instead of benefited by Biden’s move because Indiana is one of six states that levy an immediate tax on debt cancelation, which would serve as a penalty on the employee.
That lawsuit also argued that Biden’s people did not go through the normal administrative procedures for rulemaking, and asserted, “Nothing about loan cancellation is lawful or appropriate. In an end-run around Congress, the administration threatens to enact a profound and transformational policy that will have untold economic impacts. The administration’s lawless action should be stopped immediately.”