President Joe Biden’s student loan forgiveness program may face a new threat from Senate Republicans even before the US Supreme Court rules on whether it can be implemented.
Republican Sens. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Joni Ernst of Iowa and John Cornyn of Texas are planning to introduce a resolution to overturn Biden’s debt relief program, which promises up to $20,000 of debt relief for eligible borrowers, as soon as this week.
Biden would very likely veto the measure if it succeeds in both the Senate and House. But votes would force members of his own party, who have not all been in support of the student loan forgiveness program, to take a public stance.
The program is currently blocked. The Supreme Court is expected to issue its ruling in late June or early July.
“President Biden’s student loan scheme does not ‘forgive’ debt, it just transfers the burden from those who willingly took out loans to those who never went to college, or sacrificed to pay their loans off,” Cassidy said in a statement.
The Republican senators plan to introduce their resolution using the Congressional Review Act, which allows Congress to roll back regulations from the executive branch without needing to clear the 60-vote threshold in the Senate that is necessary for most legislation.
It was unclear whether the Congressional Review Act would apply to Biden’s student loan forgiveness program until the Government Accountability Office made a determination on the matter earlier this month.
Biden issued his first veto last week concerning a retirement investment resolution, which was also brought under the Congressional Review Act.
While many key Democratic lawmakers have urged Biden to cancel some federal student loan debt, not every member of the party has been supportive.
Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, a Democrat from Nevada who won a competitive reelection race last year, has previously been critical of Biden’s forgiveness plan.
“I’ll review the full text of the CRA when it is released, but like I said before, I disagree with President Biden’s executive action on student loans because it doesn’t address the root problems that make college unaffordable,” she said in a statement sent to CNN.
Her statement was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.
Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia has previously called Biden’s student loan forgiveness program “excessive.” His office did not respond to a request for comment for this story.
Biden’s one-time student debt forgiveness program is estimated to cost $400 billion over time.
Individual borrowers who made less than $125,000 in either 2020 or 2021 and married couples or heads of households who made less than $250,000 a year could see up to $10,000 of their federal student loan debt forgiven.
If a qualifying borrower also received a federal Pell grant while enrolled in college, the individual is eligible for up to $20,000 of debt forgiveness. Pell grants are awarded to students from very low-income families who are more likely to struggle paying back their student loans.
While the debt relief would help borrowers with student loans now, the program wouldn’t change the cost of college in the future – and some critics argue that it could even lead to an increase in tuition. A separate proposal from Biden, expected to take effect later this year, would create a new income-driven repayment plan that could lower monthly payments for both current and future borrowers.
The legal challengers to the student loan forgiveness program argue that the Biden administration is abusing its power and using the Covid-19 pandemic as a pretext for fulfilling the president’s campaign pledge to cancel student debt.
The White House has said that it received 26 million applications before a lower court in Texas put a nationwide block on the program in November, and that 16 million of those applications have been approved for relief – though no debt has been canceled yet. It’s possible the government moves quickly to forgive those debts if it gets the green light from the Supreme Court.
If the justices strike down Biden’s student loan forgiveness program, it could be possible for the administration to make some modifications to the policy and try again – though that process could take months.
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