'Unfair, unconstitutional and unwise': Brnovich sues Biden administration over student loan forgiveness

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich asked the U.S. District Court of Arizona to rule President Biden's student debt cancellation unconstitutional and illegal.
Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich asked the U.S. District Court of Arizona to rule President Biden's student debt cancellation unconstitutional and illegal.

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich is suing the Biden administration to try to stop its new student loan forgiveness program, arguing it doesn’t have the authority to take such an action.

“This mass debt forgiveness program is fundamentally unfair, unconstitutional, and unwise,” Brnovich said in a statement. “The question Americans need to be asking is why college costs so much in the first place.”

President Joe Biden’s proposal would cancel $10,000 to $20,000 of student loan debt for individuals that make less than $125,000 (or $250,000 for married couples) a year.

More than nine out of 10 student borrowers in Arizona — about 811,000 people — are expected to benefit from the program, according to data released by the White House. But Brnovich’s move and several other lawsuits filed this week have put that relief in jeopardy. Six Republican-led states joined together to sue the administration on Thursday, among at least two other legal challenges to Biden’s proposal.

Brnovich asked the U.S. District Court of Arizona to rule the debt cancellation unconstitutional and illegal.

Brnovich’s lawsuit claims that the president doesn’t have the power to cancel student debt and that the grounds he’s using to justify his authority don’t hold up legally. The Department of Education relied on a law known as the HEROES Act which allows the Secretary of Education to cancel student loan debt in national emergencies. In this case, the emergency was COVID-19.

The complaint Brnovich filed on behalf of the state begins by citing Biden saying “the pandemic is over” in mid-September.

“Despite the President’s repeated assertion that the ‘pandemic is over,’ the Administration still views the pandemic is still a useful pretext to adopt policies that would otherwise be incontestably illegal,” per the complaint.

'The most expensive stroke of a pen'

The lawsuit claims the debt forgiveness will hurt the state Attorney General’s Office as it relies on other loan forgiveness programs to recruit employees, will harm the state’s tax revenue and economy and will increase the state’s law enforcement costs due to student debt fraud.

Brnovich in the lawsuit calls the debt cancellation “the most expensive stroke of a pen in the history of this nation” and “the most expensive unilateral executive action ever attempted by any President,” bypassing Congress’s oversight of money.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates the program will cost the federal government about $400 billion over the next 30 years.

Brnovich has previous sued the Biden administration — and Arizona’s public universities — multiple times over a range of issues.

Republic reporter Emily Sacia and the Associated Press contributed to this article.

Have a story about higher education? Reach the reporter at Alison.Steinbach@arizonarepublic.com or at 602-444-4282. Follow her on Twitter @alisteinbach.

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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Arizona AG Brnovich files lawsuit to stop student loan forgiveness