It looks like President Biden's good intentions have come to a halt. The Department of Education is no longer accepting applications for the debt relief program following the decision of a Texas judge.
On Thursday night, U.S. District Judge Mark T. Pittman blocked the program from going forward.
"Student loan debt relief is blocked," the government website for student debt relief says. "Courts have issued orders blocking our student debt relief program. As a result, at this time, we are not accepting applications."
"We are seeking to overturn those orders," the website says, referring to an appeal filed late Thursday by the Department of Justice.
The plan was to give $10,000 in relief to borrowers who make under $125,000 a year, or $250,000 as a married couple, and $20,000 in relief to borrowers who meet the same salary standards and also received Pell Grants for college, ABC News reported.
Under the program, the Biden administration l pledged to begin relieving debt before Dec. 31, when the moratorium on student debt payments will lift following a two-year pause due to Covid-19.
The Texas lawsuit has led the Department of Education to shut down its application. And is leaving uncertainty on whether borrowers will see relief before student loan payments are set to resume.
The program has grappled with a handful of lawsuits since being announced in late august. However, two of those lawsuits were thrown out by courts because the conservative groups filing the complaints had no standing, and another lawsuit being heard in the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals put the program temporarily on pause while the arguments played out.
That lawsuit, brought on by six conservative states that opposed the program, still allowed student loan borrowers to keep applying for the relief. However, it stopped the Department of Education from discharging debt relief until the court issued its ruling.
Now, Thursday night's ruling by Judge Pittman caused another yet more complicated roadblock to the program.
The Job Creators Network Foundation filed the lawsuit and argued that the policy left out people and should've been created with more input from the public.
Judge Pittman, who was appointed by former President Donald Trump, wrote in his ruling that whether the loan relief "constitutes good public policy is not the role of this Court to determine," instead focusing on government overreach. "No one can plausibly deny that it is either one of the largest delegations of legislative power to the executive branch or one of the largest exercises of legislative power without congressional authority in the history of the United States."
Pittman added that there wasn't clear justification for the Biden administration to exercise such influence.
"The Court is not blind to the current political division in our country. But it is fundamental to the survival of our Republic that the separation of powers as outlined in our Constitution be preserved," he continued.
The Biden administration and Education Secretary Miguel Cardona responded to Thursday night's ruling. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said they "strongly disagree" with the court's ruling and that the agency has filed an appeal.
He also doubled down on the White House's commitment to fighting the ruling, saying the Department of Education is "not standing down."
"We are disappointed in the decision of the Texas court to block loan relief moving forward. Amidst efforts to block our debt relief program, we are not standing down. The Department of Justice has appealed today's decision on our behalf, and we will continue to keep borrowers informed about our efforts to deliver targeted relief," Cardona said.
The administration says it is still confident that the program is "lawful and necessary."
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