A federal judge in Texas has struck down the Biden administration's student debt relief program Thursday, calling it "unlawful".
U.S. District Judge Mark Pittman said the program undermined Congress' power to make laws.
"In this country, we are not ruled by an all-powerful executive with a pen and a phone. Instead, we are ruled by a Constitution that provides for three distinct and independent branches of government," Pittman wrote.
He added, "The Court is not blind to the current political division in our country. But it is fundamental to the survival of our Republic that the separation of powers as outlined in our Constitution be preserved."
The lawsuit was filed in October by the Job Creators Network Foundation in North Texas on behalf of two borrowers who don't qualify for all of the loan forgiveness program.
The student debt forgiveness program would cancel $10,000 worth of debt for borrowers who made less than $125,000 or households with less than $250,000 in income. Pell Grant recipients, who typically display greater financial need, were eligible for an additional $10,000 in relief.
According to the Texas Tribune, those two borrowers did not agree with the program's criteria and the lawsuit alleged that they could not voice their disagreement.
In the court files, Judge Pittman declared the program to be unlawful because Biden did not allow a period of public comment before the policy's announcement.
"We strongly disagree with the District Court's ruling on our student debt relief program," said White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre in a statement confirming the appeal.
The ruling comes weeks after a federal appeals court temporarily blocked the program when Nebraska, Missouri, Iowa, Kansas, Arkansas, and South Carolina sued to halt the program.
While the stay temporarily stopped the administration from clearing debt, the White House has encouraged borrowers to continue applying for relief, saying the court order did not prevent applications or the review of applications.
"For the 26 million borrowers who have already given the Department of Education the necessary information to be considered for debt relief — 16 million of whom have already been approved for relief — the Department will hold onto their information so it can quickly process their relief once we prevail in court," said Jean-Pierre.
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