US Appeals Court unanimously rejects Biden’s latest bid to revive student loan forgiveness plan

President Biden’s student loan debt relief program was dealt another legal blow on Wednesday when a federal appeals court unanimously decided not to overturn a decision by US District Judge Mark Pittman, who ruled against it on Nov. 10.

The program seeks to forgive hundreds of billions of dollars owed by millions of borrowers. It would forgive $10,000 in federal student loans per borrower and double that for PELL Grant recipients. The plan is in jeopardy following the ruling by the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that rejected the Biden administration’s request to lift a stay put on the program by a lower district court in Texas, according to Fox News.

The panel that nixed the plan was comprised of three judges, according to court documents. They chose to not contest the decision by Pittman who ruled the student loan handouts unlawful and temporarily suspended the plan.

The 5th Circuit Court does not have any Biden appointees on it. Judges sitting on the court include Jennifer Elrod, James Graves, and James C. Ho, who are appointees of former Presidents George W. Bush, Barrack Obama, and Donald Trump. Judge Pittman was appointed by former President Trump.

Now that the 5th Circuit Court has denied Biden’s appeal, the case will head to the Supreme Court according to the Department of Justice. Biden claims he is “confident” that his “student debt relief plan is legal” and that the high court will rule in his favor.

“But it isn’t fair to ask tens of millions of borrowers eligible for relief to resume their student debt payments while the courts consider the lawsuit,” he previously stated.

The case was brought by plaintiffs Myra Brown and Alexander Taylor. It is one of two rulings that has blocked the Department of Education from implementing the student loan forgiveness program, which is estimated to cost over $400 billion.

A number of Republican-led states have filed a separate legal challenge which was ruled upon by the St. Louis-based 8th Circuit Court. That court wrote an injunction blocking the student loan forgiveness program from taking effect. Biden has also requested the Supreme Court lift that order, according to Reuters.

The Biden administration is asserting that the Higher Education Relief Opportunities for Students (HEROES) Act of 2003 gives it the authority to forgive $10,000 in student loan debt per borrower under a national emergency. But critics contend the whole national emergency claim being put forth is very tenuous and vague. The pandemic is being used as an emergency to justify massive student loan forgiveness and Republican states have a problem with that, labeling it a false “pretext” for handouts.

Nebraska, Missouri, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, and South Carolina are all challenging the student loan forgiveness plan and are legally contending that it is an “unlawful” abuse of HEROES.

“The Act requires a real connection to a national emergency. But the Department’s reliance on the COVID-19 pandemic is a pretext to mask the President’s true goal of fulfilling his campaign promise to erase student-loan debt,” the states wrote in their filing.

“Hiding the real motive, the agency attempts to connect the Cancellation to the pandemic by citing current economic conditions supposedly caused by COVID-19. But those conditions are not directly attributable to the pandemic, so the Department has failed to adequately link the Cancellation to a national emergency,” the states added.

Currently, the Education Department has extended student loan repayment through June 2023. At that point, borrowers have an additional 60 days to make a payment. If Biden cannot get his plan through, it is almost a sure bet it will be extended even longer.

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