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GOP states sue Biden administration over student loan plan

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Six Republican-led states are suing the Biden administration in an effort to halt its plan to forgive student loan debt for tens of hundreds of thousands of Americans, accusing it of overstepping its executive powers.

It’s at the least the second legal challenge this week to the sweeping proposal laid out by President Joe Biden in late August, when he said his administration would cancel as much as $20,000 in education debt for huge numbers of borrowers. The announcement, after months of internal deliberations and pressure from liberal activists, became immediate political fodder ahead of the November midterms while fueling arguments from conservatives about legality.

Within the lawsuit, being filed Thursday in a federal court in Missouri, the Republican states argue that Biden’s cancellation plan is “not remotely tailored to handle the consequences of the pandemic on federal student loan borrowers,” as required by the 2003 federal law that the administration is using as legal justification. They indicate that Biden, in an interview with CBS’ “60 Minutes” this month, declared the Covid-19 pandemic over, yet continues to be using the continuing health emergency to justify the wide-scale debt relief.

“It’s patently unfair to saddle hard-working Americans with the loan debt of those that selected to go to varsity,” Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, who’s leading the group, said in an interview.

She added: “The Department of Education is required, under the law, to gather the balance due on loans. And President Biden doesn’t have the authority to override that.”

The states of Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and South Carolina joined Arkansas in filing the lawsuit. Iowa has a Democratic attorney general, however the state’s Republican governor, Kim Reynolds, signed on the state’s behalf. The states argue that Missouri’s loan servicer is facing a “variety of ongoing financial harms” due to Biden’s decision to cancel loans. Other states that joined the lawsuit argue that Biden’s forgiveness plan will ultimately disrupt revenue to state coffers.

Biden’s forgiveness program will cancel $10,000 in student loan debt for those making lower than $125,000 or households with lower than $250,000 in income. Pell Grant recipients, who typically show more financial need, will get a further $10,000 in debt forgiven.

The administration also said it will extend the present pause on federal student loan repayments — placed on hold near the beginning of the pandemic greater than two years ago — over again through the top of the yr.

The administration faced threats of legal challenges to its plans almost immediately, with conservative attorneys, Republican lawmakers and business-oriented groups asserting that Biden was overstepping his authority in taking such sweeping motion without the assent of Congress.

Democratic lawmakers battling in tough reelection contests also distanced themselves from the coed loan plan, as Republican officials called it an unfair government giveaway for relatively affluent people on the expense of those that didn’t pursue higher education.

Of their lawsuit, the Republican attorneys general also contend that the forgiveness program violates the Administrative Procedures Act, which lays out how federal agencies should make regulations in an effort to ensure executive branch policies are well-reasoned and explained.

“The president doesn’t have the authority to place himself within the place of Congress,” Rutledge said within the interview. “These actions should be taken by Congress and he cannot override that.”

To justify the plan’s legality, the Biden administration is counting on a post-Sept. 11, 2001, law meant to assist members of the military that the Justice Department says allows Biden to scale back or erase student loan debt during a national emergency. But Republicans argue the administration is misinterpreting the law because, partly, the pandemic not qualifies as a national emergency.

One other lawsuit against Biden’s student loan program was filed this week in an Indiana federal court by the Pacific Legal Foundation, a libertarian legal advocacy group that employs a lawyer who says he can be harmed by the forgiveness plan. The lawyer, Frank Garrison, says erasing his current debt load will trigger a tax liability from the state of Indiana, which is amongst at the least a half dozen states where the forgiven loan amounts will likely be subject to state taxes.

The White House dismissed the lawsuit as baseless because any borrower who doesn’t want the debt relief can opt out. The Education Department continues to be on the right track to unveil the applying for the forgiveness plan in early October.

Republicans have also seized on the Biden plan’s price tag and its impact on the nation’s budget deficit. The Congressional Budget Office said this week that this system will cost about $400 billion over the following three a long time. The White House countered that the CBO’s estimate of how much the plan will cost just in its first yr, $21 billion, is lower than what the administration initially believed.

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