Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, is reportedly considering challenging President Biden’s student loan forgiveness effort.
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A number of Republican lawmakers could file a legal challenge to President Joe Biden’s historic announcement last week that he would cancel the student debt of tens of millions of Americans.
Though no lawsuit has yet been filed, GOP attorney generals from states including Arizona, Missouri and Texas, along with Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and those associated with conservative think tank Heritage Foundation are considering their options if that is the case comes in an attempt to block loan origination, the Washington Post reports.
“The uncertainty for borrowers in the meantime, I’m afraid, is considerable,” said Laurence Tribe, a Harvard law professor.
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Biden said last week that most federal student loan borrowers are entitled to some forgiveness: up to $10,000 if they haven’t received a Pell Grant, a type of grant for low-income undergraduate students, and up to $20,000 if they don’t receive a Pell Grant. if she did this.
A debate about emergency forgiveness is emerging
Along with its announcement, the White House released a 25-page memo from the US Department of Justice arguing that debt relief under the Heroes Act of 2003, which gives the president broad powers to overhaul student loan programs, is “appropriate.” Passed shortly after the September 11 terrorist attacks, this law allowed the executive branch to waive student loans in national emergencies. In March 2020, the Trump administration declared the Covid-19 pandemic a national emergency.
Those trying to block the enactment are likely to argue that the Heroes Act of 2003 doesn’t give the president the power to forgive student debt in the broad ways he’s attempting, said higher education expert Mark Kantrowitz.
The matter could go all the way to the Supreme Court.
The news of a possible challenge from the right is not surprising. Even before Biden carried out his plan, some Republicans were working to halt the president’s efforts to cancel debt in national emergencies. Critics of student loan forgiveness say the policy is unfair to Americans who haven’t gone to college, those who have already paid off their student loans, or never borrowed at all.
The first obstacle for those hoping to legally challenge Biden’s plan will be finding a suitable plaintiff, Tribe said. It probably has to be someone who can argue that student loan forgiveness is causing them “personal harm,” and that may not be easy.
“Such a breach is required to establish what the courts call ‘standing,'” Tribe said. “No individual, company or state is demonstrably harmed in the way private lenders would have been if, for example, their student loans had been cancelled.”
“Be cautiously optimistic”
The news that a loan forgiveness challenger could emerge is sure to worry the tens of millions of Americans who have remade their lives with less student debt since the president’s announcement.
The US Department of Education has said its loan cancellation application will be available by or before October, and Kantrowitz said borrowers should not change their plans for the time being.
“Borrowers should ask for forgiveness and be cautiously optimistic,” he said.
Neither the White House nor the Department of Education immediately responded to a request for comment.