Politicians from both sides react after court blocks Biden's student debt forgiveness plan

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WASHINGTON – After a U.S. District Court in Texas blocked President Joe Biden's student loan forgiveness program Thursday night, politicians are discussing the future of the program.

District Court Judge Mark Pittman called Biden's plan, which is estimated to aid more than 40 million borrowers, "unconstitutional." The Biden administration, alongside many progressive politicians, strongly disagree – and point to the millions who are still in need of the program's relief.

"I repeat, the President has the legal authority to cancel student debt," Massachusetts Democrat Rep. Ayanna Pressley wrote on Twitter late Tuesday. "Republicans & far right extremist judges kindly move aside and stop holding up the people’s relief."

"Republican officials are trying to stop millions of working and middle class Americans from getting student debt relief," Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., wrote. "Despite this lawless ruling from a Trump-appointed judge, (Biden's) legal authority to cancel student debt is clear."

Meanwhile, conservatives who have criticized the administration's student debt relief plan from the start celebrated the news.

Rep. Virginia Foxx of North Carolina, the Republican leader on the House education committee, called Biden's program an "illegal student loan bailout" and stated that "hardworking taxpayers across the country are rightfully rejoicing" after Thursday's ruling.

Thursday's ruling: US judge in Texas blocks President Biden's student debt forgiveness plan; appeal filed

'Their outrage is wrong': Biden boosts student loan debt forgiveness on heels of court wins

How does the HEROS Act fit in?

In August, Biden announced his historic student loan forgiveness program – which would bring a one-time federal debt cancellation of $10,000 to $20,000 for eligible borrowers. The administration has said it can offer this debt relief under the HEROS Act, a 2003 law that allows for such measures during national emergencies – in this case, the COVID-19 pandemic.

But Pittman, who was appointed by former President Donald Trump, ruled late Thursday that the administration doesn't have that authorization.

"In this case, the HEROES Act – a law to provide loan assistance to military personnel defending our nation – does not provide the executive branch clear congressional authorization to create a $400 billion student loan forgiveness program," Pittman wrote.

In response, the Biden administration has maintained that its one-time student debt program is lawful. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona and White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre confirmed that the Justice Department filed an appeal.

Impacts: Debt relief will change the lives of some with student loans, but fall short for others.

October: Application for Biden's student loan forgiveness plan go live

"We believe strongly that the Biden-Harris Student Debt Relief Plan is lawful and necessary to give borrowers and working families breathing room as they recover from the pandemic and to ensure they succeed when repayment restarts," Cardona said in a statement. "Despite this decision, we will never stop fighting for the millions of hardworking students and borrowers across the country."

Student debt relief applications blocked?

Cardona and Jean-Pierre also noted that more than 26 million borrowers have applied for the one-time relief, and 16 million have already been approved for relief. "The (Department of Education) will hold onto their info, so it can quickly process their relief once we prevail in court," Jean-Pierre said Thursday night.

As of Friday morning, the Education Department's student debt relief application portal said that at this time it is "not accepting applications" because of court orders blocking the program.

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Thursday marks the second time a court has blocked Biden's student debt relief program. Last month, the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals temporarily blocked the plan while it considered a separate lawsuit brought by six states.

Here's what politicians were saying after Thursday's ruling.

Contributing: Chris Quintana, Nirvi Shah, USA TODAY

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Biden student loan forgiveness: Politicians react after Texas decision