Judge tosses lawsuit challenging Biden's student loan forgiveness plan for 'racial motive'

A federal district judge this week dismissed a conservative legal group's lawsuit challenging President Joe Biden's student loan forgiveness plan.

The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty sued Biden and U.S. Education Department officials earlier this week, arguing that the plan to cancel up to $20,000 in student debt for millions of borrowers was illegal executive overreach.

The lawsuit, one of several challenging the program, attracted national attention for being the first to bring race into play.

The White House has said the plan will help narrow the racial wealth gap and advance racial equity. WILL argues the statements amount to “improper racial motive” and violate the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection of the laws.

WILL vowed to appeal the judge's decision.

“This is an extraordinary case based on an extraordinary claim of executive power by the President," WILL deputy counsel Dan Lennington said in a statement. "This case was always destined to be decided by higher courts, and we will continue the fight to the Court of Appeals and then the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary.”

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WILL filed the lawsuit on behalf of the Brown County Taxpayers Association, which includes more than 100 members who pay federal taxes and are "on the hook" to pay for Biden's plan, they argued.

Judge William C. Griesbach, who was appointed President George W. Bush, ruled Thursday that the taxpayers association doesn't have “standing” before the court, or the grounds to sue.

"The Supreme Court has repeatedly held, however, that the payment of taxes is generally not enough to establish standing to challenge an action taken by the Federal Government," he wrote in his decision.

The application for borrowers to apply for loan forgiveness is expected to be rolled out sometime this month.

WILL had asked the court to immediately block that from happening for the time being. But even if the taxpayers association had standing, Griesbach said, it's unclear if he could grant their injunction request because "a substantial question remains as to whether Plaintiff can demonstrate that it will suffer irreparable harm."

About 685,000 borrowers in Wisconsin, and 40 million across the country, will be eligible for relief under Biden's plan, which calls for cancelling up to $10,000 in federal student loan debt for borrowers who earn less than $125,000 per year, or less than $250,000 for married couples, or up to $20,000 for those who received federal Pell Grants.

Contact Kelly Meyerhofer at kmeyerhofer@gannett.com. Follow her on Twitter at @KellyMeyerhofer.

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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Lawsuit targeting Biden's student debt relief for 'racial motive' tossed