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The Senate voted Thursday to block President Biden’s plan to forgive up to $20,000 in federal student loans for eligible Americans.
The resolution, proposed by Louisiana Republican senator Bill Cassidy, also would restart student loan payments. Biden has said he would veto the measure. The resolution didn’t pass either chamber with enough votes to override a presidential veto.
Two Democratic senators joined with Republicans to support the resolution, which passed with 52 votes. Forty-six senators voted against it.
“It is unfair to the hundreds of millions of Americans who will bear the burden of paying off hundreds of billions of dollars of someone else’s student debt,” Cassidy said in a statement. “Our resolution prevents average Americans, 87 percent of whom currently have no student loans, from being stuck with a policy that the administration is doing not to be fair to all, but rather to favor the few.”
The resolution is one of several ways congressional Republicans are trying to block one of the president’s signature policies. House Republicans previously voted to block the debt-relief plan and other changes to the student loan program as part of a bill that would raise the country’s borrowing limit and make other spending cuts to the federal budget. The final bill to avert default and raise the debt ceiling requires the administration to resume student loan payments later this summer.
The Supreme Court is set to say this month whether the debt-relief plan is legal.
The Government Accountability Office said in March that the plan meets the definition of a rule under the Congressional Review Act, setting the stage for the resolution. Under the act, a simple majority of lawmakers in the House and Senate can vote to block the administration from carrying out the rule.
Student Borrower Protection Center executive director Mike Pierce said student loan borrowers will not forget which politicians voted for the resolution, which he said would cause “irreparable damage” to the student loan system.
“Today’s vote makes crystal clear exactly who stood up and fought to protect the economic livelihoods of millions of people with student loan debt—and who schemed to keep them drowning in the debt despair of our nation’s student loan crisis,” Pierce said. “The American people are watching and expect President Biden to keep his promise to veto this horrendous bill and deliver on his promise of student loan debt relief once and for all.”
The SBPC and the American Federation of Teachers previously found that the student loans of more than 260,000 public servants would be reinstated under the resolution. Another two million workers would lose progress toward debt relief under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program.
House Republicans have said the resolution is not retroactive.
The resolution cleared the House with 218 votes—the minimum needed—after two Democrats sided with Republicans.
Washington State representative Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, one of the Democrats who voted for the resolution, said in a statement that expansions of student debt forgiveness need to be matched dollar for dollar with investments in career and technical education.
“I can’t support the first without the other,” she said. “I’m all for repairing what’s busted but the higher education system is totaled. College costs too much and the credentials produced get unwarranted social status, justifying more cost increases by our country’s elite. They need to snap out of it, and the system needs a total overhaul.”
In the Senate, West Virginia senator Joe Manchin, Montana senator Jon Tester and Arizona senator Kyrsten Sinema voted for the resolution. Manchin and Tester are Democrats, while Sinema is an Independent who caucuses with the Democrats.
“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. “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. 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.”