Arizona Sues Biden Admin Over Student Debt Cancellation Plan
The state of Arizona on Thursday filed a federal suit against the Biden administration challenging President Joe Biden’s move to cancel billions in student loan debt.
The move comes shortly after six other Republican-led states—Nebraska, Missouri, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, and South Carolina—on the same day filed a federal suit against the Biden administration, also against the federal student debt cancellation.
The Biden administration announced in August it would provide up to $10,000 in debt relief to borrowers who earn less than $125,000 per year, or $20,000 in debt relief to Pell Grant recipients who meet similar income standards. The move comes after months of pressure from a vocal, progressive wing of Democrats who called on Biden to fulfill his campaign promise. An application to receive the student debt relief is expected in early October.
Arizona’s legal challenge, filed in a federal court in Arizona against Biden, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, and the Department of Education, challenges Biden’s authority to cancel the student debt. The state of Arizona is asking the court to declare Biden’s federal student debt relief unconstitutional and otherwise not in accordance with the law, and stop it from going ahead.
“The Biden administration does not have the authority to cancel student debt,” Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s office announced on Thursday. “Despite being told by members of congress he cannot pursue such an action, Biden is relying on the Higher Education Relief Opportunities for Students Act (HEROES Act) and the COVID-19 pandemic.”
According to the lawsuit (pdf), the student debt relief is “putatively based on using the COVID-19 pandemic to invoke the [HEROES Act].”
Brnovich’s office noted that the HEROES Act was a response to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, to “relieve active-duty personnel from financial hardship while defending our nation.” The act also provided for people who reside in disaster areas affected by a national emergency.
But Biden “attempts to stretch the HEROES Act to assert authority over all borrowers in the country, citing the COVID-19 pandemic as a national emergency and the entire United States as a disaster area,” Brnovich’s office said.
“It is inconceivable, when it passed the HEROES Act, that Congress thought it was authorizing anything like the Administration’s across-the-board debt cancellation,” the lawsuit filed against the Biden administration stated.
The Biden administration and the Department of Education did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Costs of Student Debt Relief
The Department of Education on Thursday said its student debt relief is expected to cost the federal government $379 billion, or an average of $30 billion a year over the next decade. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) had earlier estimated the cost to be over $400 billion over the next 30 years.
The Biden administration previously estimated the plan would cost about $24 billion a year over the next 10 years—about $240 billion for the decade. Meanwhile, a separate estimate from the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget put the total cost at $500 billion or more over the next decade.