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As the U.S. awaits a decision on President Biden’s one-time student loan forgiveness plan, opposition to the plan by Republicans in Congress has continued to mount. Most recently, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy introduced the GOP’s debt limit plan, which proposes significant funding cuts, including the elimination of Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan.
Before the debt limit plan was introduced, senate republicans introduced a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution aimed at repealing President Biden’s student loan forgiveness program before the Supreme Court issues its ruling. The resolution would also end the federal student loan payment pause, which has been ongoing since March 2020 and is set to end this summer, depending on the Supreme Court’s decision on one-time student debt relief.
Applications for Biden’s one-time student loan forgiveness program opened in October of 2022 but were quickly closed when legal challenges to the plan gained traction and the administration was ordered to halt the program. During the short time applications were open, 26 million people across the U.S. applied or were automatically eligible for one-time student debt cancellation.
It is expected that the Supreme Court will issue its ruling on Biden’s student loan forgiveness program by late June 2023.
The GOP’s debt ceiling proposal
The “Limit, Save, Grow Act” proposed by House Speaker McCarthy would cut government spending by $4.5 trillion in response to the U.S. reaching its debt ceiling earlier this year. If the U.S. government does not raise the debt ceiling by June, the U.S. could default on its loans, resulting in a potential government shutdown. Republicans in Congress are proposing massive cuts to domestic programs as part of their plan to raise the debt ceiling.
This move comes after President Biden proposed a $6.9 trillion budget that would include new taxes aimed at corporations and the wealthy that would be used to expand social safety net programs. If the White House and Congress fail to come to an agreement on how to address America’s debt, the U.S. could see a stock market crash, a rise in unemployment and a potential recession.
Notably, the GOP’s debt ceiling proposal would eliminate President Biden’s student loan forgiveness program. It would also end the ongoing student loan payment pause and limit the Department of Education’s authority to issue regulations that would increase the government’s long-term spending. This would limit the Department’s ability to implement student debt relief in any form, not just one-time debt forgiveness.
The Department of Education responds to GOP debt ceiling proposal
In response to Speaker McCarthy’s debt ceiling proposal, Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona gave the following statement:
“Today, Speaker McCarthy declared that he will force a catastrophic default and plunge America into recession unless he can claw back school relief dollars and prevent millions of hardworking Americans – including over 83,000 borrowers in his own district – from getting the student debt relief they need coming out of the pandemic. It’s a shame for students and working families across the country that Republican lawmakers, many of whom benefitted from hundreds of thousands of dollars in small business loan forgiveness, continue to fight hypocritically to deny critical student debt relief to millions of their own constituents. While President Biden, Vice President Harris, and I continue working to deliver much-needed relief to borrowers working to get back on their feet after the pandemic, Speaker McCarthy’s proposal tells us everything we need to know about what he and his allies value—tax cuts for the super rich, special interests, and big corporations over support for hard working Americans.”
The Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently released a decision stating that Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan is subject to congressional review. The Congressional Review Act allows Congress to strike down new rules introduced by the President and other federal agencies. Under the CRA, Congress can pass joint resolutions with a simple majority in both the House and Senate, and the resolution is not subject to filibustering.
Republican lawmakers quickly announced their plans to repeal the plan in Congress before the Supreme Court issues its ruling. Senators Bill Cassidy, John Cornyn, Joni Ernst and 36 other Republican senators released the CRA resolution on March 27, which calls for Congress to overturn Biden’s one-time student debt relief plan and end the Federal student loan payment pause.
The Senators pushing for the resolution released an advisory on the resolution in which they made it clear that they believe Biden’s debt relief plan is an overreach of executive power, and that taxpayers will be harmed by the plan if it is ultimately put into place. The advisory also claims that Biden’s plan will worsen inflation and the cost of higher education and that it could increase the risk of a recession.
“The Biden Administration’s debt cancellation plan is a poor solution to a serious problem. Rather than addressing college costs and quality, the President’s higher education proposals would lead to more borrowing, higher tuition, and worse overall outcomes. The $400 billion in debt cancellation would offer windfalls to higher earners while boosting inflation for Americans already struggling with high prices on everything from rent to groceries. The unilateral action will add to the national debt that is already on course to reach a record share of the economy and increase recession risk,” said Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, in the advisory.
Will student loan forgiveness be repealed by Congress?
The CRA resolution will likely pass in the House, where Republicans hold a 222-213 majority. Democrats hold a 51-49 majority in the Senate, so there is a chance that the Senate will overturn the resolution. If the resolution makes it through the Senate and is passed by Congress, it is likely that President Biden will veto it. This would mean a two-thirds majority must be established for Congress to overturn student debt relief.
Whether President Biden vetoes the CRA resolution or not, its passage will ultimately come down to Senate democrats, some of whom have criticized the President’s student debt relief plan in the past. However, it is still unlikely that Republicans could garner enough support from Democrats to get the two-thirds majority required to ultimately overturn the student debt relief plan.
The Department of Education responds to challenge from Republican lawmakers
Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona released a statement following the introduction of the CRA resolution to block student debt relief.
“Republicans in Congress represent millions of borrowers who have applied for student debt relief. It’s a shame for these borrowers—the overwhelming majority of whom make less than $75,000 a year—and their families that their representatives are working so hard to deny them critical relief,” says Cardona. “Instead of working to support hardworking students and borrowers, Republicans in Congress would rather give trillions of dollars in tax breaks to the super wealthy and the biggest corporations. The Biden-Harris Administration will continue to fight to deliver much-needed support to borrowers trying to get back on their feet after the economic crisis caused by the pandemic.”
How will borrowers be impacted if Biden’s student debt relief plan is repealed?
Republicans claim that Biden’s one-time student debt relief plan would, “benefit the wealthy elite while simultaneously punishing responsible Americans, driving up inflation, and failing to address the real problems in higher education,” data from the Biden administration suggests that nearly 90 percent of relief benefits would go to borrowers making less than $75,000 per year. The plan itself states that only those making less than $125,000 per year, or $250,000 for married couples who file joint taxes, are eligible. The plan offers the most relief to those who received Federal Pell grants for their education, meaning that they demonstrated significant financial need.
If Biden’s student debt relief plan is repealed in Congress, either through the CRA resolution or the “Limit, Save, Grow Act”, millions of borrowers could be pushed into early repayment without debt relief. The Department of Education had already announced that they expected historically high default and delinquency rates at the start of repayment if student debt relief does not get passed. If borrowers are pushed back into repayment even earlier than expected, this will be even more likely.