Senate Overturns Biden’s Student Loan Cancellation Plan, Setting Up Veto

Senate Overturns Biden’s Student Loan Cancellation Plan, Setting Up Veto
The U.S. Capitol in Washington on May 31, 2023. (Stefani Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images)
Samantha Flom

The U.S. Senate voted to overturn President Joe Biden’s student debt transfer program on June 1, rebuking his efforts to bypass Congress and cancel the debt of certain student loan recipients.

The chamber passed the joint resolution of disapproval in a 52–46 vote with the help of Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.).

“Today, I voted to repeal the Biden Administration’s student loan cancellation proposal because we simply cannot afford to add another $400 billion to the national debt,” Manchin said in a statement, citing a Congressional Budget Office estimate.
“There are already more than 50 existing student loan repayment and forgiveness programs aimed at attracting individuals to vital service jobs, such as teachers, health care workers, and public servants,” he noted. “This Biden proposal undermines these programs and forces hard-working taxpayers who already paid off their loans or did not go to college to shoulder the cost. Instead, we should be focusing on bipartisan student debt reforms that reduce the cost of higher education and help all Americans.”

The Program

In addition to offering to cancel up to $20,000 in federal student loan debt for roughly 40 million borrowers, Biden’s program initially sought to extend a national pause on the collection of student loan payments and interest.

Since then, however, the plan has been challenged in court, and in November 2022, the Biden administration announced that the payment freeze wouldn’t be extended again.

In the coming weeks, the Supreme Court will rule on two challenges relating to the debt relief plan. If the litigation isn’t resolved by June 30, payments will resume 60 days after June 30. Otherwise, payments will resume 60 days after the court hands down its decision.

According to Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, the court cases challenging the program are “callous,” “baseless,” and “just plain wrong.”

“I want borrowers to know that the Biden-Harris Administration has their backs and we’re as committed as ever to fighting to deliver essential student debt relief to tens of millions of Americans,” Cardona said in a Nov. 22, 2022, statement.

In March, Chief Justice John Roberts seemed skeptical that Biden had the authority to implement such a sweeping change without congressional approval.

“We take very seriously the idea of separation of powers and that power should be divided to prevent its abuse, and there are many procedural niceties that have to be followed for the same purpose,” Roberts said during oral arguments in one of the two cases the court is reviewing.

“I think most casual observers would say, if you’re going to give up that much amount of money, if you’re going to affect the obligations of that many Americans on a subject that’s of great controversy, they would think that’s something for Congress to act on. And if Congress hasn’t acted on it, then maybe that’s a good lesson to say, for the President or the administrative bureaucracy, that maybe that’s not something they should undertake on their own.”

But regardless of how the court rules, the administration appeared to confirm its resolve to resume collecting student loan payments earlier this week when, as part of the debt limit deal forged by Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), the White House agreed to a provision that would require a permanent end to the freeze.

Congressional Opposition

On Capitol Hill, Republicans have been particularly vocal in their opposition to Biden’s debt relief program, noting that the $400 billion price tag would be paid by U.S. taxpayers.

“Make no mistake: These reckless student loan schemes do not forgive debt,” Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) said on May 31 on the Senate floor. “They transfer burden from those who willingly took out the loans to go to college to make more money when they graduated to Americans who never attended college or who have already paid back their loans. These policies are as unfair as they are irresponsible.”

Cassidy also noted that the program doesn’t attempt to address the rising cost of tuition, which according to College Board (pdf), is up 124 percent from 30 years ago at public four-year institutions.

The Senate’s vote to overturn the program follows the House’s vote to do so on May 24 and the House’s subsequent passage of the debt limit deal forged by Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) late last week, which also provides for an end to the student loan payment pause.

Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.), the joint resolution’s sponsor, celebrated the Senate’s vote on June 1, calling Biden’s program “unlawful and unfair.”

“I am proud to have led the House fight against President Biden’s reckless, unilateral, and unconstitutional action that would penalize those who worked hard to pay off their loans or who never took them out in the first place,” Good said. “The President should reverse course and do the right thing by signing this legislation as it heads to his desk.”

Biden has vowed to veto the measure. To override that move, the program’s detractors would need a two-thirds majority vote in the House and Senate—an unlikely feat given that most Democrats voted against the resolution in both chambers.

The White House didn’t respond by press time to requests by The Epoch Times for comment.

Samantha Flom is a reporter for The Epoch Times covering U.S. politics and news. A graduate of Syracuse University, she has a background in journalism and nonprofit communications. Contact her at [email protected].
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