The White House calls a lawsuit to block student loan forgiveness ‘baseless’

  • A conservative legal organization sued the Education Department over Biden’s debt relief plan. 
  • The White House said that suit’s claims are “baseless” in a statement to Insider. 
  • The suit likely has no standing, experts told Insider, because the plaintiff can opt out of relief.

A conservative group is challenging the legality of President Biden’s impending cancellation of student debt for millions of borrowers, and the White House categorically denied all of its claims.   

The Pacific Legal Foundation, a conservative nonprofit legal organization, announced on Tuesday that it had filed a suit against the Department of Education because of Biden’s relief plan, a move that comes after rumblings from conservative business groups and attorneys general that they would do so. It’s the first major lawsuit against the Biden administration’s announcement that it would forgive up to $20,000 in student debt for federal borrowers making under $125,000.

The lawsuit claims that the executive branch lacks the authority to create a forgiveness policy, saying that it is solely within Congress’s power to create laws. 

The White House came out strongly against the Pacific Legal Foundation’s assertions. 

“The claim is baseless for a simple reason: No one will be forced to get debt relief. Anyone who does not want debt relief can choose to opt out,” Abdullah Hassan, White House assistant press secretary, said in a statement to Insider. “Why would this group bring this baseless claim? Because opponents of the debt relief plan are trying anything they can to stop this program that will provide needed relief to working families.”

The White House has said that over 40 million people are likely to be eligible for forgiveness under Biden’s plan, and the first cancellations are expected to take place before the end of the year. The plan will cancel up to $10,000 in debt for federal borrowers who earn less than $125,000 annually, and up to $20,000 for Pell Grant recipients. 

Republican politicians have long opposed any relief plan from Biden, with attorney generals from states like Texas, Missouri, and Arizona confirming recently that they’re considering attempts to block Biden’s plan. Congressional Republicans are upset too

The Pacific Legal Foundation’s plaintiff, Frank Garrison, isn’t pleased with the relief either. Garrison, a public interest attorney at the legal organization, is currently paying off his loan debt through the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. He expects to see full forgiveness in about four years.

However, Garrison is now claiming that because he qualifies for $20,000 in relief, he will be facing a new tax burden from his home state of Indiana.

“The lawsuit that was announced today was a teed up, opportunistic challenge against the student debt cancellation plan, where they attempted to find the needle in the haystack,” Abby Shafroth, a staff attorney at the National Consumer Law Center, told Insider. “They tried to find the one person who might actually be harmed by the student debt cancellation plan that promises to deliver relief to up to 43 million working and middle class Americans.”

Luke Herrine, an assistant professor of law at the University of Alabama who focuses on the legality of debt cancellation, told Insider in an email that Garrison “likely does not have standing to sue.” That’s because the basis of the argument — the new tax bill — hasn’t happened and may not happen, especially if Garrison can opt out.

“The big problem with his whole claim that cuts to the heart of it is the federal government is gonna have an opt out process, so that no one who wants to leave their student debt…

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