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11 Nov, 2022 18:08

Judge strikes down Biden’s student debt relief program

The US president enticed young voters to the polls this week by promising to forgive some of their college debt
Judge strikes down Biden’s student debt relief program

A federal judge in Texas struck down US President Joe Biden’s student loan forgiveness program on Thursday, ruling it unconstitutional. The ambitious initiative was a key factor in the Democratic Party’s success with young voters in the midterm elections held on Tuesday.

US District Judge Mark Pittman ruled that the program amounted to “one of the largest exercises of legislative power without congressional authority in the history of the United States.” Pittman’s decision puts the program on hold indefinitely, although the White House stated shortly afterwards that it intends to appeal.

Biden promised in August to cancel $10,000 in student debt for borrowers with an income of less than $125,000 per year, or $20,000 for lower-income borrowers who received federal Pell Grants to attend university. More than 40 million people were eligible to benefit, at a total cost to the taxpayer of $430 billion, the Congressional Budget Office estimated in September.

The Biden administration claimed that the HEROES Act of 2003 – which provides loan assistance to military members and veterans – gave it the authority to enact the sweeping loan forgiveness program. Pittman ruled that it did not.

The case against the Biden administration was brought by a conservative advocacy group on behalf of two students deemed ineligible for the program. While the White House was already accepting applications for debt cancelation, the program has been on hold since last month following legal challenges by six Republican-led states.

Given its announcement so close to Tuesday’s midterm elections, the program was derided by conservatives as an attempt to “buy votes,” in the words of Texas Rep. Ronny Jackson.

Biden’s Democrats managed to stave off an anticipated “red wave” on Tuesday, with Republicans projected to take a narrow majority in the House of Representatives and the Senate still in play. According to a CNN exit poll, voters aged between 18 and 29 favored Democrats by a 28-point margin, with 30-44-year-olds backing the party by only four points, and every other cohort favoring Republicans in increasing numbers since 2020.

In a speech on Wednesday, Biden acknowledged that young people had voted in “historic numbers.” Biden’s chief of staff, Ron Klain, attributed the “energy and enthusiasm” of this demographic to Biden’s “action on climate change [and] student loans.”