(NewsNation) — President Biden’s debt relief plan was set to start canceling outstanding student loans as soon as Sunday, but just got put on temporary hold. A federal appeals court has – for now – blocked the plan while it hears a legal challenge from six Republican-led states that claim they’ll face serious economic injury if the debts are forgiven.
I was far from the only one, but I predicted that this would happen — that this effort to wipe out much of the student debt stood on shaky legal ground, primarily because of how it was issued via executive order and not through the passing of any law.
Late Friday, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a stay that prevented the Biden Administration from moving ahead with forgiving hundreds of billions of dollars of student loans. Twenty-two million people have applied for relief under the program.
Now a lower court judge had dismissed the lawsuit, ruling the states didn’t have the proper legal standing to challenge the president’s plan, meaning they hadn’t shown they would be directly and clearly injured financially by the debt forgiveness. The appeals court overruled that judge.
That is something we discussed on this show that could be an issue in the question of the states’ interest in the case.
But putting the legal issues aside, maybe most troubling is that now you have millions of people in limbo. Some who came to count on that money, who should have been warned that this very likely could get struck down by the courts.
Here’s why. President Biden’s plan is based on the Heroes Act, which was passed back in 2003 for veterans fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq after the Sept. 11 terror attacks. It allows for the Education Secretary to waive debt obligations in times of war or national emergency. According to the Biden Administration, that national emergency is the COVID-19 pandemic, which is a reach. Many constitutional experts do not think a piece of legislation designed for times when the nation is at war applies to a now-fading pandemic.
Meanwhile, the Biden Administration has been dismissive of the court’s order to temporarily block the program. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona tweeted out a video over the weekend saying they’re moving full speed ahead preparing for implementation.
“We promise to fight to protect you from baseless lawsuits trying to stop us from providing you debt relief. We will not stop fighting for you,” Cardona said.
Whatever you think of the lawsuits, they aren’t baseless or frivolous. Even the lower court that dismissed the case based on lack of standing by the states wrote, “Plaintiffs present important and significant challenges to the debt relief plan.”
Late Monday evening, the government responded to the appellate court’s order, pausing the program and asking the court to allow the debt relief to move forward writing, “Plaintiffs will suffer no irreparable injury from the provision of much needed relief to millions of Americans. But the public interest would be greatly harmed by its denial.”
Look, I’ve made it clear I believe the $300 billion plan is bad policy and maybe even bad politics. I think for people who didn’t go to college have to subsidize those who did is troubling and many people who already paid off their debts are frustrated as well.
But my main legal concern, and the one I’ve discussed on my show, has centered around whether the White House was trying to stretch a nearly 20-year-old wartime law to cover what’s clearly an effort to meet a presidential campaign promise just in time for the midterms.
I don’t know what will ultimately happen in the courts. The appeals court has agreed to hear the challenge on a fast-track basis. We may know soon, maybe even this week.
It’s an interesting legal question about whether the state should have the standing or authority to sue. But even though I disagree with the policy, I feel for the millions who have now come to expect that the massive burden of college debt would soon be lifted — who weren’t warned that this was going to be a tough legal fight.
There isn’t a right and a wrong here. I fear that many have been misled by the administration focusing only on what they hoped would happen next, instead of the realities of it.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author, and not of NewsNation.