The antipathy many conservatives feel toward President Biden’s student debt relief plan, which the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office recently estimated will cost roughly $400 billion, is as vivid as many borrowers’ enthusiasm for it.
“The president isn’t a king. He’s not an emperor. And if he does something unconstitutional, hell yeah, I’m going to hold him accountable,” Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich told NPR in an interview. On Thursday, Brnovich made good on that promise, suing to block Biden’s plan.
“I can assure you that my Republican colleagues and I will fight to the bitter end against this illegal, abusive use of the executive pen,” Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., said in a recent speech.
In short, legal opposition to Biden’s debt relief plan has become a team effort. Brnovich’s lawsuit is just the third this week. And other conservative politicians, interest groups and attorneys are likely to file additional suits soon.
How likely are they to succeed?
That depends on whom you ask.
The Biden administration’s legal defense of student debt relief
In a memo defending Biden’s plan, the U.S. Justice Department cited the Higher Education Relief Opportunities For Students Act, or HEROES Act, which President George W. Bush signed after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, as U.S. soldiers fought in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The act gave an incredible power to the U.S. secretary of education: the authority “to alleviate the hardship that federal student loan recipients may suffer as a result of national emergencies,” according to the Justice Department’s memo.
Fast-forward two decades to a very different national emergency: the COVID-19 pandemic.
Early in the pandemic, the Trump administration used this same HEROES Act authority to freeze payments and interest accrual on federal student loans – helping many borrowers who, because of