A federal appeals court is blocking Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan indefinitely

On Monday, an appeals court ruled that the temporary stay blocking Joe Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan, which would cancel up to $20,000 in student debt per borrower, would be converted into an injunction, postponing the plan indefinitely. The ruling was made by the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in response to a lawsuit brought by six Republican-led state governments — Nebraska, Missouri, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas and South Carolina, which claimed that debt forgiveness would hurt them economically.

President Joe Biden with Education Secretary Miguel Cardona [AP Photo/Susan Walsh]

The Republican plaintiffs deliberately brought their lawsuits in the district covered by the Eighth Circuit so that any appeal of the lower court’s decision by either side would be brought before one of the most right-wing appeals courts in the country. All but one of the Eighth Circuit’s eleven active justices have been appointed by Republicans, including four appointed by Donald Trump. The three-judge panel that issued the ruling on Monday consisted of two Trump appointees and one George W. Bush appointee.

Biden announced the Student Debt Relief Program in August, issuing an executive order based on a 2003 federal law allowing the Secretary of Education to modify student financial assistance programs “in connection with a war, other military operation, or national emergency.” This law was first cited by the Trump administration to suspend student loan debt payments during the COVID-19 pandemic. The debt moratorium is set to expire at the beginning of 2023.

Monday’s appeals court ruling came on the heels of a Texas federal judge appointed by Trump last Thursday overturning Biden’s student loan plan. Judge Mark Pittman, ruling in a lawsuit separate from the one brought by Republican-led states, claimed that Biden’s executive action creating the program is an illegal encroachment on congressional power. This is a totally hypocritical statement from the same alt-right championing the authoritarian “unified operational theory,” which radically attacks the constitutional principle of separation of powers and claims that the president has unilateral power to wage war, imprison, and even kill alleged terrorists. Terrorists and “unlawful enemy combatants”, including US citizens.

Bateman’s decision stopped accepting new orders and processing pending orders. Some 16 million applications had already been approved at the time of the ruling, with 26 million people already applying.

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