(Tim Gouw | Unsplash)
The right-wing law firm the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday challenging the Biden Administration’s student debt forgiveness program.
The lawsuit, which WILL filed on behalf of the Brown County Taxpayers’ Association (BCTA) in Wisconsin’s Eastern District court, is one of several that have been filed against the forgiveness plan across the country, including one brought by the Republican attorneys general of several states.
In August, the Biden Administration announced it planned to forgive up to $20,000 of student loan debt for people who make less than $125,000 per year. WILL and BCTA argue in the lawsuit that the plan violates the constitutional separation of powers and that the president doesn’t have the authority to wipe away the debt.
“The problem is, for purposes of this lawsuit, that President Biden created this program unilaterally and without any legal authority from Congress,” the lawsuit states. “That’s not how lawmaking works in America — at least since the signing of the Declaration of Independence.”
The U.S. Department of Justice has argued the executive branch, and therefore the president, has the power to approve debt forgiveness under a 2003 law.
According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, at the end of 2021, Wisconsin had 785,600 borrowers with a collective $24.7 billion in student loan debt. The average balance is $31,482, while the median balance is $17,037. The delinquency rate on those loans is 6%.
The BCTA and WILL also previously brought an unsuccessful lawsuit over how Brown County was spending revenue it raised from a 0.5% sales tax. In bringing the lawsuit against the debt forgiveness, BCTA president Rich Heidel complained that the plan takes money from one group and gives it to another.
“Student Loan Debt Relief takes from one group of people and arbitrarily distributes the spoils to another group,” Heidel said in a statement. “The Plan amounts to nothing more than a modern-day version of King George III’s Stamp Act where there was massive taxing and spending without participation of the People’s representatives.”
Wisconsin Rep. Francesca Hong (D-Madison) wrote on Twitter that the lawsuit will have the effect of harming minority residents of Wisconsin. One in four Black borrowers will see all of their student loan debt wiped away under the plan.
Hong pointed to other lawsuits WILL has brought, including against minority business owners’ eligibility for federal programs and fights over gender identity in schools, as evidence that it is fighting legal battles from an ideologically extreme point of view.
“WILL is the legal klan arm of the WI GOP,” Hong wrote. “They fought to keep restaurant revitalization funds from vets and BIPOC owned businesses and now want to keep Black folks in debt. The $ and resources they spend to maintain systemic racism is telling us who they are.”
“They’re well funded to perpetuate hatred & violence,” she continued. “These racist mega-fascists spend millions to make sure our communities public health suffers, attack trans youth, disenfranchise Black and disabled voters. [F-ing] terrifying cowardly clowns.”
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