A conservative group filed suit Tuesday to put a halt to the Biden administration’s student debt forgiveness plan. The Pacific Legal Foundation, a libertarian public interest law firm based in California, is the first out of the gate among conservative groups to challenge the plan.
Finding someone who could claim standing – that is, was actually harmed by the plan – has been a crucial challenge for groups seeking to overturn the rule. The plaintiff in the case is Frank Garrison, a PFL lawyer based in Indiana who claims that the plan will injure him because it will force him to pay more than $1,000 in state taxes on the $20,0000 in student loan debt he will have forgiven. Garrison says he would prefer to pay back his educational loans through the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, which dismisses the debt of those who work in the public sector for 10 years.
“Frank is not only somebody who is harmed by this, but he’s also somebody who believes the cancellation plan is deeply wrong,” Steve Simpson, an attorney at Pacific Legal Foundation, told The Washington Post. “One really big difference between the program Frank is participating in and the Biden program is that one was passed by Congress.”
Caleb Kruckenberg, another attorney at Pacific Legal Foundation, made a similar point, pointing to broad questions of legality. “Congress did not authorize the executive branch to unilaterally cancel student debt,” he said in a statement. “It’s flagrantly illegal for the executive branch to create a $500 billion program by press release, and without statutory authority or even the basic notice and comment procedure for new regulations.”
White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre said Tuesday that borrowers could opt out of the program if they so wished and that no one would be forced to apply.