President Biden on Wednesday vetoed a Republican-led resolution that would have struck down his controversial plan to forgive more than $400 billion in student loans.
In a statement on Wednesday, the president said the resolution—which the Senate approved on a 52-46 vote Thursday under the Congressional Review Act, a week after the House passed the measure—would have kept millions of Americans from receiving “the essential relief they need as they recover from the economic strains associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The resolution called for a restart of loan payments for millions of borrowers that have been on pause since early in the coronavirus pandemic. It also would have prevented the Education Department from pursuing similar policies in the future.
In his statement, the president said it is “a shame for working families across the country that lawmakers continue to pursue this unprecedented attempt to deny critical relief to millions of their own constituents, even as several of these same lawmakers have had tens of thousands of dollars of their own business loans forgiven by the Federal Government.”
It wasn’t the first time the White House has highlighted that lawmakers received financial relief from the government during the pandemic through the Payment Protection Program loans.
The student loan forgiveness program faces legal challenges, and the Supreme Court is set to issue a ruling on its legality before the end of June.
“I remain committed to continuing to make college affordable and providing this critical relief to borrowers as they work to recover from a once-in-a-century pandemic,” Biden said in his statement Wednesday.
Two Democrats and an independent—Sens. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.)—joined with Republicans to approve the resolution in the Senate, showing the divisiveness of the student loan policy and the difficulty of getting any future plan through Congress. In the House, the 218-203 vote fell largely along party lines, with two Democrats—Reps. Jared Golden (Maine) and Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (Wash.)—voting with Republicans.
Unveiled in August, Biden’s loan forgiveness plan would eliminate $10,000 of federal student debt for borrowers earning up to $125,000 annually, or $250,000 for married couples. Recipients of Pell Grants, a form of financial aid for low- and middle-income students, are eligible for an additional $10,000 in forgiveness.
A provision in the bipartisan deal that Biden struck with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) earlier this month to lift the debt ceiling—which the president signed into law Saturday—codifies the Education Department’s plan to resume student loan payments 60 days after the Supreme Court hands down a decision or on Sept. 1.
The moratorium—enacted by the Trump administration—suspended student loan payments without accrual of interest, saving borrowers some $5 billion a month in interest. Each month of suspended payments has counted toward loan forgiveness for borrowers in public-service jobs, helping many achieve or move closer to debt cancellation.
On Wednesday, Biden said the demand for loan relief is “undeniable,” noting that “in less than 4 weeks—during the period when the student debt relief application was available—26 million people applied or were deemed automatically eligible for relief.” Per the president, “At least 16 million of those borrowers could have received debt relief already if it were not for meritless lawsuits waged by opponents of this program.”