WASHINGTON – Six Republican-led states took legal action Thursday to stop President Biden from wiping out billions of dollars in student loan debt, even as the administration sought to avoid a court challenge by reducing the number of people eligible for relief. .
A lawsuit filed in federal court by Leslie Rutledge, the Republican attorney general of Arkansas, impeach Mr. Biden vastly overstepping his authority last month when he announced the administration would forgive up to $20,000 in student loan debt, a far-reaching move that the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated could cost $400 billion over the next three years. decades.
“President Biden’s illegal political move puts self-made college loan debt on the backs of millions of hard-working Americans struggling to pay their utility bills and home loans amid Biden’s inflation,” said Ms. Rutledge in a statement on Thursday. “President Biden does not have the power to arbitrarily erase college debt from adults who chose to take out those loans.”
The states of Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, South Carolina and Nebraska have joined the lawsuit, which attacks Biden’s claim that debt relief is justified by a federal law that authorizes actions during a health emergency such as the coronavirus pandemic. coronavirus. Republican officials in those states note that Mr. Biden recently declared the pandemic was over in an interview with “60 Minutes” on CBS.
Abdullah Hasan, a White House spokesman, said the lawsuit is trying to prevent Biden from providing much-needed relief to people struggling in the wake of the pandemic.
“Republican officials in these six states champion special interests and fight to stop relief for borrowers buried under mountains of debt,” Hasan said. “The president and his administration are legally giving working-class and middle-class families a break as they recover from the pandemic and prepare to resume loan payments in January.”
the lawsuit, first reported by The Associated Press, it is the second attempt this week to shut down the loan forgiveness program, which is one of the president’s major accomplishments during nearly two years in office. On Tuesday, a conservative legal group sued to block debt cancellation, saying the program would force people to pay taxes on forgiven debt.
Facing the latest legal challenges, the Department of Education announced Thursday that it would no longer forgive student debt with federal student loans held by private companies. Removing eligibility for those students could make it harder for Republican attorneys general to successfully attack the entire program in court.
There are only about 770,000 people who have that type of debt, out of about 40 million who could still apply for relief, according to the authorities. Students with federal student loans would be eligible for $10,000 relief, while those with low-income Pell Grants could apply for a $20,000 debt cancellation.