Georgia attorney general defends lawsuit against Biden student loan plan

Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr, shown last year, has questioned the legality and fairness of President Joe Biden's latest student loan debt relief efforts. (AJC file photo)

Credit: Natrice Miller/AJC

Credit: Natrice Miller/AJC

Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr, shown last year, has questioned the legality and fairness of President Joe Biden's latest student loan debt relief efforts. (AJC file photo)

Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr took his case against the Biden administration’s plan to provide additional student loan debt relief to the airwaves Tuesday, saying the White House doesn’t have the authority to enact such changes.

“The Supreme Court has already determined that the Biden administration couldn’t do this,” Carr said during an appearance on The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Politically Georgia podcast.

“If he wants to do this, he should go to Congress,” he added.

President Joe Biden last week announced a plan he says would reduce debt for about 25 million Americans for their federal student loans. Days later, Carr joined a lawsuit with six other Republican-led states that seeks to block Biden’s plan to wipe out debts for lower-income borrowers who have fallen behind on repayments and reduce debt for others.

The latest lawsuit is similar to one filed last month by 11 states and follows the one that led to the high court’s ruling last year in Biden v. Nebraska. The U.S. Supreme Court, in a 6-3 decision with conservative justices in the majority, ruled against Biden’s first effort, saying the administration does not have the authority for such a broad loan cancellation program.

“The President’s ‘Plan B’ attempt to force taxpayers to pay for the debts of others is no stronger than his ‘Plan A’ attempt that was blocked last year,” says their lawsuit, filed April 9 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri. It added that Biden’s latest expansion, or “Plan C,” is aimed at “canceling waves of student debt in the run-up to the November election.”

On Tuesday, the White House released its first set of draft rules for Biden’s plan. One key element of the plan would permit automatic relief of up to $20,000 of the amount by which a borrower’s loans currently exceed what they owed upon starting repayment. Another key element would offer a waiver of the entire amount their balance has grown since entering repayment for many borrowers in the Saving on a Valuable Education (SAVE) plan or any other income-driven repayment plan.

“Today’s announcement shows that the Biden-Harris Administration is continuing to fulfill our promises to fix a broken higher education system,” U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said in a statement Tuesday. “Student loan forgiveness isn’t only about relief for today’s borrowers. It’s about social mobility, economic prosperity, and creating America that lives up to its highest ideals.”

Federal data shows student loan debt is an issue for many Georgians. The Peach State has nearly 1.7 million borrowers, the eighth-highest total in the nation. They owe, on average, $41,740, which is the third highest in the nation, only behind borrowers in Washington, D.C., and Maryland.

The Biden administration has said it believes it has the authority to enact the latest changes under the Higher Education Act. Biden has been under pressure within his voter base and among younger Americans to provide more student loan debt relief. He’s provided debt relief in other ways, particularly for borrowers working in public service.

Carr questioned the fairness of the Biden plan that’s now under legal review, saying he and other borrowers paid their loan debt without any broad-based federal help.

“This is just crass politics for the president to do this,” he said.

AJC producer Natalie Mendenhall contributed to this report.