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GOP states charge Biden parliament over student loan proposal

WASHINGTON (AP) — Six states backed by Republicans have sued the federal government to stop the Joe Biden administration’s plan to cancel student loan debt for tens of millions of Americans.

At least two lawsuits have been filed this week against the expansive plan announced by Vice President Joe Biden in late August, under which the federal government would forgive up to $20,000 in student loans for millions of people. As expected, the statement, which followed months of discussion and pressure from liberal activists, became political fodder ahead of the November midterms and fueled disputes from conservatives about the legitimacy of the move.

President Joe Biden poses for his official portrait Wednesday, March 3, 2021, in the Library of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz)

The Republican states are suing the federal government on Thursday in a Missouri federal court, claiming that Biden’s cancellation plan is “not remotely tailored to address the effects of the pandemic on federal student loan borrowers,” as is required by the federal law from 2003 that the government is relying on to justify its actions. They point out that this month Biden declared the end of the Covid-19 outbreak on CBS’s “60 Minutes,” yet he continues to use the ongoing health emergency to justify the massive debt relief.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, who is leading the group, said in an interview, “It’s unfair to saddle hard-working Americans with the loan debt of individuals who choose to go to college.”

To that end, she stated, “The Department of Education is compelled, under the law, to collect the balance owed on loans, and President Biden cannot override that.”

Additionally to Arkansas, the states of Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, and South Carolina have also joined in on the legal action. Iowa’s Republican governor, Kim Reynolds, signed on behalf of the state despite the state having a Democratic attorney general. The states claim that the Missouri loan servicer will suffer “many ongoing financial losses” as a result of Biden’s decision to terminate loans. Additional states have joined the case, claiming that Biden’s forgiveness scheme will negatively impact their budgets.

Student loan debt of up to $10,000 will be forgiven under Biden’s scheme if the borrower’s or their family’s annual income is less than $125,000 or $250,000, respectively. Students who qualify for the federal Pell Grant and show extreme financial need will have an additional $10,000 in student loans canceled.

In addition, the government said that the suspension of federal student loan repayments, which was initially placed on hold around the beginning of the pandemic more than two years ago, would be extended once again through the end of the year.

Conservative attorneys, Republican congressmen, and business-oriented groups all threatened legal challenges to the administration’s intentions, claiming that Biden was overstepping his power by acting so broadly without the approval of Congress.

Although Republican politicians criticized the student loan plan as an unjust government handout to the wealthy at the expense of the middle class, Democratic lawmakers running for reelection also distanced themselves from the proposal.

The Republican attorneys general argue in their lawsuit that the forgiveness program is illegal because it does not follow the guidelines established by the Administrative Procedures Act. This law was created to make sure that executive branch policies were well-reasoned and explained.

The president “does not have the right to put himself in the place of Congress,” Rutledge said in the interview. He lacks the authority to bypass the legislative process, which is required for this kind of change.

The legality of the proposal is being defended by the Biden administration with a post-Sept. The Justice Department claims that under the Helping Our Armed Forces Readjustment Act of 2001 (H.R. 1101; originally signed into law on September 11, 2001), Vice President Joe Biden has the authority to decrease or eliminate federal student loan debt during times of national emergency. However, Republicans have claimed that the administration is misinterpreting the legislation because the pandemic is no longer considered a national emergency.

This Monday, a libertarian legal advocacy group, the Pacific Legal Foundation, filed a federal lawsuit in Indiana challenging Biden’s student loan forgiveness scheme, claiming that one of its lawyers will be injured by the policy. Frank Garrison, an attorney, claims that he will owe taxes to Indiana on the amount of his forgiven debt, as well as to the governments of at least half a dozen other states.

Since any debtor who does not want the relief can choose to opt-out, the White House believes the lawsuit has no merit. The release of the forgiveness program application from the Department of Education is still scheduled for the beginning of October.

The budget deficit and the plan’s high price tag have been two Republican talking points against the Biden agenda. This Monday, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the program’s total cost during its 30-year lifespan would be over $400 billion. The White House responded by saying the CBO’s projection of $21 billion for the first year of the plan is lower than the administration’s first estimate.

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