The U.S. Senate will consider a joint resolution to overturn President Joe Biden’s student debt relief plan.
In a 51–46 vote, the chamber approved a motion to take up the resolution on May 31, opening the door to a congressional rebuke and nullification of Biden’s one-time student loan forgiveness program.
According to the Congressional Budget Office, the program is projected to cost taxpayers roughly $400 billion over the next decade.
“Make no mistake: These reckless student loan schemes do not forgive debt,” Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) noted on the Senate floor prior to Wednesday’s vote. “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.”
Biden’s program, Cassidy added, does nothing to hold institutions accountable for the skyrocketing costs of higher education—the root cause of the debt in question.
“According to the College Board, in the last 30 years, tuitions and fees have jumped at private nonprofit colleges by 80 percent,” he noted. “At public four-year institutions, they’ve jumped 124 percent. According to the Center for a Responsible Federal Budget, if the student loan transfer goes into effect, students and taxpayers would be back in this same situation in five years.”
Debt Limit DealThe Senate vote came hours before the House was expected to vote on the debt limit deal struck between House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and President Joe Biden over the weekend.
The Fiscal Responsibility Act, which would suspend the national debt limit until January 2025, also includes a provision that would require the government to resume the collection of student loan payments and interest, which have been frozen for the last three years.
If passed, payments would resume at the end of August, though the bill has been criticized by stalwart Republicans, who feel McCarthy conceded too much to Biden and the Democrats.
“Tomorrow’s bill is a bunch of fake news and fake talking points that will do nothing to rein in out-of-control federal spending,” Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) said at a Tuesday press conference. “If every Republican voted the way that they campaigned, they would vote against tomorrow’s bad deal because this is the very thing that we all campaigned to put an end to.”
House Democrats, on the other hand, have signaled their support for the measure, presenting a unified front in contrast with the division among the GOP.
Court ChallengesThe Supreme Court has also been deliberating over Biden’s program in relation to two separate cases challenging his authority to implement it. As the court is expected to rule on those cases in the coming weeks, those rulings could throw a wrench in Biden’s plans if Congress does not.
The Biden administration has extended the pause on student debt collection several times since it was first implemented in 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The most recent extension occurred in November 2022, at which point Biden announced that if the Supreme Court had yet to rule on his program by June 30, the freeze would end 60 days from that date. If the court hands down a ruling before June 30, the freeze will end 60 days from the date of the ruling.
During oral arguments in March, the court appeared skeptical that Biden possesses the authority to circumvent Congress with his program.
“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,” Chief Justice John Roberts said at the time.
“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,” he added. “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.”