Appeals Court Rejects Appeal by Biden Administration to Reinstate Student Debt Relief

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, based in New Orleans, rejected an appeal by the Biden administration to reinstate its student debt relief program. 

The three-judge panel was comprised of an appointee from each of the last three presidents. The Biden administration was appealing to try overturning the November 10 decision by U.S. District Judge Mark Pittman of Fort Worth, Texas, to strike down the administration’s student debt relief program. The decision by Judge Pittman crippled Biden’s touted $400 billion relief program. 

“It is ordered that appellants’ opposed motion for stay pending appeal is denied,” said the court filing. “It is further ordered that this matter is expedited to the next available randomly designated regular oral argument panel. The Clerk is directed to issue a schedule for expedited briefing thereafter.”

In Pittman’s ruling, he called President Biden’s program “one of the largest exercises of legislative power without congressional authority in the history of the United States.”

The decision of the 5th Circuit was made one day before the December 1 deadline the Biden administration requested “to allow the government to seek relief from the Supreme Court” if necessary.

Two court decisions prevented Biden’s student debt relief promise

Pittman’s ruling was one of only two that have prevented the Department of Education from moving forward with granting millions of borrowers student debt relief. 

The Biden administration has asked the United States Supreme Court to lift an order by the St. Louis-based 8th Circuit Court of Appeals that had blocked it from canceling student loans. 

President Biden announced in August that the government of the U.S. would forgive up to $10,000 per year in student loan debt for borrowers earning less than $125,000 per year or $250,000 for married couples. Students who have received Pell Grants will have up to $20,000 in student debt canceled. 

During the 2020 presidential campaign, then-candidate Biden promised to help debt-saddled former college students. However, his program has drawn strong opposition from Republicans, who have described it as shifting the debt burden from wealthy elites to lower-income Americans. 

In September, the Congressional Budget Office calculated the debt forgiveness program would cost taxpayers close to $400 billion. 

Court orders in multiple lawsuits have blocked the student debt relief plan since late October. The federal government has stopped collecting applications for debt relief while the legal battles over it proceed. 

The recent order comes after a case brought by a conservative advocacy group, the Job Creators Network Foundation, on behalf of two borrowers in Texas who claim their education debt was unfairly excluded from the program. 

In another lawsuit, six Republican-led states ask the Supreme Court to keep Biden’s plans on hold while their legal challenge proceeds. State officials argue the president overstepped his executive authority by authorizing the program with no congressional approval, which will impact local loan servicers negatively.