WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. appeals court on Friday temporarily blocked President Joe Biden’s plan to cancel billions of dollars in college student loans, one day after a judge dismissed a Republican-led lawsuit by six states challenging the debt-forgiveness program.
The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted the states’ emergency petition to freeze the loan forgiveness plan until the court rules on their request for a longer-term injunction while Thursday’s decision against the states is being appealed.
The St. Louis-based appeals court also ordered an expedited briefing schedule on the matter.
U.S. District Judge Henry Autrey in St. Louis ruled on Thursday that while the six Republican-led states had raised “important and significant challenges to the debt relief plan,” he threw out their lawsuit on grounds they lacked the necessary legal standing to pursue the case.
Nebraska, Missouri, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas and South Carolina said Biden’s plan skirted congressional authority and threatened the states’ future tax revenues and money earned by state entities that invest in or service the student loans.
Their case is one of a number that conservative state attorneys general and legal groups have filed seeking to halt the debt forgiveness plan announced in August by Biden, a Democrat.
Autrey ruled about an hour after U.S. Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett denied without explanation an emergency request to put the debt relief plan on hold in a separate challenge brought by the Wisconsin-based Brown County Taxpayers Association.
In a policy benefiting millions of Americans, Biden said the U.S. government will forgive up to $10,000 in student loan debt for borrowers making less than $125,000 a year, or $250,000 for married couples. Borrowers who received Pell Grants to benefit lower-income college students will have up to $20,000 of their debt canceled.
The policy fulfilled a promise that Biden made during the 2020 presidential campaign to help debt-saddled former college students. The Congressional Budget Office in September calculated that the debt forgiveness would cost the government about $400 billion.
Democrats are hoping the policy will boost support for them in the Nov. 8 midterm elections in which control of Congress is at stake.