The Senate GOP sought to block Biden’s new student loan income-driven repayment plan.
The Senate on Nov. 15 defeated a resolution to overturn President Joe Biden’s income-driven repayment plan for student loans.
The Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution, which only needs a vote of 50 to pass the Senate rather than 60 to end a filibuster, was defeated in a 49-50 vote. All Republicans voted in support of the resolution along with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.).
“President Biden’s student loan scheme is not a fix. It is a politically motivated giveaway that forces taxpayers to shoulder the responsibility of paying off someone else’s debt,” said Sen. Bill Cassidy, M.D., (R-La.), who first proposed the CRA with Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and John Thune (R-S.D.), in a Nov. 15 speech on the Senate floor ahead of the vote.
Mr. Cassidy’s CRA reached the Senate with 36 co-sponsors, all Republicans except for Mr. Manchin.
In his speech, he took the time to promote his own approach to easing the financial burden of higher education, the Lowering Education Costs and Debt Act.
“Our legislation puts downward pressure on tuition,” Mr. Cassidy said.
The legislation is a joint resolution under the CRA. Such measures are designed to take out rules from the executive branch with surgical precision—in this case, President Biden’s student loan proposal—through votes in both chambers of Congress.
Rep. Lisa McClain (R-Mich.) introduced the House version of the resolution in September.
CRA resolutions can be vetoed by the president if they pass the Senate and House, but they can override the executive’s disapproval if they pass the House and Senate again with two-thirds majorities—a difficult proposition in a closely divided Congress.
The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions discharged the resolution on Nov. 14. Mr. Cassidy is minority leader of that committee.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who chairs the committee, spoke in favor of the Biden administration’s student loan forgiveness efforts before the Senate on Nov. 15.
“In America today, hundreds of thousands of bright young Americans are not going to college—not because they are unqualified, but because they cannot afford it,” Mr. Sanders said.
The self-described democratic socialist said he would go further than the president in tackling student debt.
“In my view, what we need to do is to make all public colleges and universities tuition free and cancel all student debt,” he said.
The Trump administration first froze student loan debt repayment in March 2020, at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns. What began as a two-month pause was extended by Congress, the Trump administration, and, in Jan. 2021, the Biden administration.
“I will stop at nothing to find other ways to deliver relief to hard-working, middle-class families,” President Biden said after that Supreme Court decision.
Former President Donald J. Trump praised the high court’s ruling.
“President Biden is not allowed to wipe out hundreds of billions of dollars, which would have been very unfair to the millions and millions of people who paid their debt through hard work and diligence,” President Trump said.
President Biden announced his new income-driven repayment vision, the Saving on Valuable Education (SAVE) plan, in August, just weeks ahead of when borrowers would face the prospect of addressing student loans and interest for the first time in years. Interest on the loans kicked in once again in September, while repayment restarted in October.
“If your annual income is less than $30,000–your monthly payment will be $0 until it gets above $30,000,” President Biden said in a speech outlining the policy.
“Under the SAVE plan, monthly payments are based on your income, not your student loan balance,” he continued.
“It’s incredibly unfair to those who never incurred student debt because they didn’t attend college in the first place or because they either worked their way through school or their family pinched pennies and planned for higher education,” Mr. Cassidy said at the time.
Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona has defended the administration’s plan.
“Those who are vehemently opposed to it have not spoken to their constituents who are drowning, who need support, who need to make higher education more accessible,” he said in a Sept. 8 interview on CNN.