The more the merrier? Just a couple of days after a private citizen filed a lawsuit to block Joe Biden’s student-loan debt forgiveness plan, six states have opened another legal front. Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, South Carolina, and Arkansas launched their own lawsuit, covering some of the same legal ground as Pacific Legal Foundation‘s lawsuit on behalf of Frank Garrison:
Six Republican-led states are suing the Biden administration in an effort to halt its plan to forgive student loan debt for tens of millions of Americans, accusing it of overstepping its executive powers.
It’s at least the second legal challenge this week to the sweeping proposal laid out by President Joe Biden in late August, when he said his administration would cancel up to $20,000 in education debt for huge numbers of borrowers. The announcement, after months of internal deliberations and pressure from liberal activists, became immediate political fodder ahead of the November midterms while fueling arguments from conservatives about legality.
In the lawsuit, being filed Thursday in a federal court in Missouri, the Republican states argue that Biden’s cancellation plan is “not remotely tailored to address the effects of the pandemic on federal student loan borrowers,” as required by the 2003 federal law that the administration is using as legal justification. They point out that Biden, in an interview with CBS’ “60 Minutes” this month, declared the Covid-19 pandemic over, yet is still using the ongoing health emergency to justify the wide-scale debt relief.
The PLF lawsuit predicates Garrison’s standing on the tax liability this will impose immediately on him. However, the guts of that case has to do with unconstitutional provisions in the HEROES Act and violations of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), on which judges often rely when issuing injunctions. PLF had hoped to get a restraining order quickly before the program launches, which could be as early as tomorrow.
The six states also rely on an APA argument, but their standing may be even more firm than Garrison’s fairly firm argument on that point. All six states claim that the program will damage their state tax collections, and Missouri adds that its loan servicer will lose revenue for payments and debt collection it would normally accrue otherwise.
Interestingly, and sadly, neither of these actions can address the real constitutional elephant in the room. Biden as president has no constitutional authority to appropriate funds out of thin air for any initiative. In this case, Biden’s not even making the pretense of shifting funds from already-extant appropriations, as Donald Trump did with his border-wall funding, in large part because such funds don’t exist on the scale Biden would need. The CBO scores this Academia bailout at $400 billion, which would be between 20-25% of the discretionary spending Congress appropriates in its annual budgets these days. Biden would have to shut down entire Cabinet departments to fund his Academia giveaway in that fashion.
Unfortunately, only Congress would have standing for such a challenge on that basis. And embarrassingly, the current leadership of Congress has no interest in defending its constitutional privilege and authority. Instead of defending this basic check on executive power — through the power of the purse — Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer have gutlessly chosen to cheerlead Biden’s imperial presidency in order to get the outcome they want.
Still, that insult to constitutional order will undoubtedly weigh on a judge’s mind when considering this case. The more such cases get filed, the better chance that the opening gambit will lead to a firm rebuke on all counts, including to a gutless Congress.