The Senate passed through a Republican bill blocking President Joe Biden‘s student loan forgiveness program on Thursday, with a 52 to 46 vote. It gained the support of Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Jon Tester of Montana, and independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.
The resolution, which has already passed the House by a 218 to 203 vote with two Democrats breaking party lines, would repeal the Biden administration’s program to cancel up to $10,000 in federal student loans for borrowers whose income falls below a certain level and up to $20,000 for students who have received Pell Grants—a federal student aid subsidy.
It would also end a pandemic-era pause on interest accrual and retroactively add several months of student loan interest that were waived by Biden’s extension of the measure—it means that millions of students will see their debt rocket.
The resolution, and especially the addition of extra interest on student loans, have sparked anger among students’ advocates, with the nonprofit Student Debt Crisis Center (SDCC) urging Biden to veto the “shameful resolution passed by the Senate that would unravel student debt relief.”
“Today’s Senate vote retroactively terminates the pause on federal student loan payments and interest accrual, obstructs @POTUS’s debt-relief plan and even claws back Public Service Loan Forgiveness relief that has already been granted to teachers, veterans, and frontline heroes,” the group wrote on Twitter.
“It is shameful that legislators would endorse measures that harm the very heroes in our communities—veterans and nurses—who are still grappling with the aftermath of the pandemic and its profound economic impact,” SDCC president and founder Natalia Abrams said.
— Student Debt Crisis Center (SDCC) (@DebtCrisisOrg) June 1, 2023
“The cold hard reality is that if Republicans were to get their way and pass this bill into law, people across the country would have relief they are counting on snatched away from them, plans they have made upended, less money in their pockets, and monthly payments not just abruptly restarted—but maybe even abruptly jacked up by hundreds of dollars,” said Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA).
While Democrats and supporters of Biden’s plans say that the program is necessary to help thousands of families, Republicans have argued that it adds an unjustified burden on taxpayers and is unfair to those who have already paid off their student debt or did not go to college.
Payments on federal student loans, which were paused during the pandemic and then during the cost-of-living crisis which hit most of the world last year, will resume on August 30 if the debt-ceiling deal negotiated between Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is signed into law.
Biden’s plan to cancel student loan debt for 43 million Americans would still be in place, and the president has said he will veto the measure passed by the Senate on Thursday.
But the final say on the program belongs to the Supreme Court, which is expected to rule on two conservative challenges to Biden’s plan in the coming weeks and decide whether the plan can take effect.
No debt has been canceled yet, as the plan has been held up for months in a legal battle that would be unlocked by the Supreme Court’s decision this month.
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