Texan federal judge strikes down Biden’s student debt program as “unlawful”

President Joe Biden‘s effort to forgive student loan debt was dealt a significant setback after a federal judge in Texas ruled that the program is unconstitutional and must end.

U.S. District Court Judge Mark Pittman issued an order on Thursday striking down the program that was expected to grant $20,000 in loan debt relief to over 40 million Americans who earn less than $125,000 per year. The program has brought court challenges from critics who say it’s unfair to taxpayers and is legally questionable. The judge’s ruling is the latest in a string of legal complications as Biden seeks to keep a key campaign promise.

The ruling from Pittman concerns a lawsuit that’s separate from a legal challenge brought by six Republican-led states seeking to halt the program. The lawsuit that was the subject of Pittman’s ruling was filed in October by Myra Brown and Alexander Taylor, two Texas residents who have student loan debt but are ineligible under the rules of Biden’s relief program.

President Joe Biden speaks during an event hosted by the Democratic National Party at the Howard Theatre on November 10, 2022, in Washington, D.C. A federal judge in Texas dealt Biden’s student loan forgiveness program a setback on Thursday.
Samuel Corum/Getty Images

Biden’s program, announced in August, allows single borrowers who earn less than $125,000 to cancel $10,000 worth of loan debt, and married couples with a joint income of $250,000 to eliminate $20,000.

The lawsuit argues that millions of Americans are arbitrarily excluded by the program. Brown, who has $17,000 in debt, is ineligible because her debt is privately held, and Taylor does not qualify for the full amount of debt forgiveness because he did not receive a Pell Grant when he was in college, the lawsuit states.

Pittman, who was appointed by former President Donald Trump, wrote in his ruling that Biden’s program is “an unconstitutional exercise of Congress‘s legislative power and must be vacated.”

Newsweek reached out to the White House for comment.

Update 11/10/22, 8:15 p.m. ET: This story has been updated with additional information.

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