Republican leaders in the House of Representatives took a major step this week to advance a proposal that would repeal several of President Biden’s signature student debt relief initiatives, including broad student loan forgiveness and the latest extension of the ongoing student loan pause. The legislation is likely to ultimately pass the House, but its fate beyond that is far less certain.
Here's what’s happening.
Congressional Review Act Resolution Would Gut Biden's Student Loan Debt Relief Plans
The Education and the Workforce Committee voted on Wednesday to advance a Congressional Review Act resolution that would undo several key Biden administration student loan initiatives. The Congressional Review Act (CRA) is a federal law that allows Congress to reverse recently established regulations.
The CRA resolution would repeal Biden’s one-time student loan debt relief plan, which would cancel up to $20,000 in federal student loan debt forgiveness for millions of Americans. That plan is currently tied up in litigation, and a Supreme Court decision is expected next month. The CRA resolution would also repeal Biden’s most recent extension of the student loan pause, which has suspended payments and frozen interest for millions of federal student loan borrowers since 2020. Biden enacted the most recent extension of the payment pause in response to the legal battle over his student loan forgiveness plan.
“If passed through both chambers, the joint resolution being debated today would nullify President Biden’s radical plan to cancel up to $20,000 in student debt by executive fiat,” said Education and the Workforce Committee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) in opening remarks in the House on Wednesday. “For two years, President Biden has attempted to push a free college agenda through radical regulations including income-driven repayment, executive actions like blanket cancellation, and his permanent pause on repayment. Student loan ‘forgiveness’ is nothing more than a transfer of wealth from those who willingly took on debt to those who did not or had the grit to pay off their loans.”
Democrats and Borrower Advocates Slam Student Loan Forgiveness Repeal Efforts
Advocates for student loan borrowers and congressional Democrats quickly knocked Republican efforts to roll back the Biden Administration’s student debt relief initiatives.
“Let’s be clear: this resolution to eliminate student debt relief would hurt millions of student borrowers and their families,” said Ranking Member Bobby Scott (VA-03) in a statement on Wednesday. “Importantly, the people who would be impacted the most by this resolution are not the ‘wealthy and well-connected.’ Under the President’s plan, 90% of the relief would go to borrowers earning less than $75,000 a year.”
Repercussions of potential student loan pause reversal
Advocates also warned of dire consequences if Biden’s last extension of the student loan pause is reversed. The Student Borrower Protection Center (SBPC) noted that this would result in the Education Department clawing back credit toward student loan forgiveness under Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) and Income-Driven Repayment (IDR), which could lead to thousands of borrowers having their recently discharged loans reinstated. Advocates have also suggested that borrowers could receive retroactive student loan bills for the last several months.
“The GOP’s CRA resolutions are a shocking attack against student loan borrowers and their families,” said Natalia Abrams, President of the Student Debt Crisis Center, in a statement. “Not only would it block President Biden’s plan to broadly cancel student debt, it would also roll back months of paused student loan payments and even send retroactive loan bills to millions of people who have already received relief. This is unacceptable and will have a devastating impact on families still struggling to recover from the financial harm caused by the pandemic.”
The CRA effort is one of two major legislative strategies congressional Republicans are utilizing to try to pressure President Biden to reverse his student loan policies. House Republicans passed a separate bill just a few weeks ago that would also repeal these initiatives as part of a broader legislative package to raise the debt ceiling. Republicans are demanding substantial cuts to federal spending in exchange for any agreement to raise the debt ceiling. President Biden and many congressional Democrats have argued that Congress should agree to raise the debt ceiling without preconditions and should honor the obligations it has already agreed to incur.
Will Student Loan Forgiveness Repeal Efforts Be Successful?
Advancing the CRA resolution out of the Education and the Workforce Committee brings it one step closer to a full vote on the House floor. With Republicans holding a narrow majority, the CRA resolution is likely to pass the House. But its fate beyond the House is far less certain.
To become law, the resolution must also pass the Senate and be signed by President Biden. Democrats control the Senate, but they, too, have a narrow majority there. Assuming all Republican senators vote in favor of the CRA resolution, it would take just two Democratic senators to join them for the resolution to pass, and a handful of moderate Democrats in that chamber seem potentially open to supporting it.
If it passes the Senate, it would be sent to President Biden. But Biden is widely expected to veto the measure, preventing it from becoming law. In theory, Congress could override the veto, but that would require a two-thirds majority in both the House and the Senate. With both chambers split nearly evenly, and most Democrats supporting the Biden administration’s student loan relief efforts, a veto override is not particularly likely.
But congressional Republicans will continue pressing the issue in ongoing negotiations over the debt ceiling. Congressional leaders, including House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, met with President Biden earlier this week to discuss a resolution to the debt ceiling impasse, but cited no substantial progress in negotiations. The leaders are expected to meet again on Friday. Administration officials have warned that the country could breach the debt ceiling by June, which could have catastrophic economic consequences.