A federal appeals court on Friday temporarily blocked President Joe Biden’s student debt relief plan from taking effect.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit issued the order granting the stay late Friday after attorneys general for six Republican-led states filed an appeal.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement that the order does not prevent borrowers from applying for student debt relief.
“We encourage eligible borrowers to join the nearly 22 million Americans whose information the Department of Education already has,” she said.
Jean-Pierre added that the decision also does not prevent the Biden administration from reviewing applications and preparing them for transmission to loan servicers.
“It is also important to note that the order does not reverse the trial court’s dismissal of the case, or suggest that the case has merit. It merely prevents debt from being discharged until the court makes a decision,” she said.
“We will continue to move full speed ahead in our preparations in compliance with this order. And, the Administration will continue to fight Republican officials suing to block our efforts to provide relief to working families.”
The states — Nebraska, Missouri, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas and South Carolina — had sought declaratory and injunctive relief to block the program from taking effect but the case had been dismissed by a U.S. District Court Judge Henry E. Autrey in St. Louis on Thursday for a lack of standing.
The six states argued that Biden’s Education Department breached the separation of powers, violated the Administrative Procedure Act and overstepped the 2003 Higher Education Relief Opportunities for Students Act — also known as the HEROES Act.
The HEROES Act allows the Education Secretary to “waive or modify any statutory or regulatory provision applicable to the student financial assistance programs under title IV of the Act as the secretary deems necessary in connection with a war or other military operation or national emergency.”
Autrey, an appointee of former President George W. Bush, said the states had not suffered injuries that gave them the legal standing to sue the federal government.
The appeals court gave the government until 5 p.m. on Monday to submit its response to the appeal and a Tuesday deadline for the states to respond.
In August, Biden announced that the White House planned to forgive $10,000 in student loan debt for those making less than $125,000 annually and $20,000 for recipients of Pell grants, which assist students from lower-income families.
The loan cancellations were expected to begin as soon as Sunday.
Several other lawsuits against Biden’s program have already been dismissed for a lack of standing.
Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett on Thursday rejected an emergency relief request from the Brown County Taxpayers Association which argued that Biden’s plan denies Congress its role of controlling federal spending while saddling the government with a bill of more than $1 trillion.
The Brown County Taxpayers Association’s lawsuit previously failed at the district level where a federal judge dismissed it for lack of standing and an appeals court refused to overturn the lower court’s ruling before the emergency relief application was sent to Barrett, who oversees the 7th Circuit.
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