The House voted Wednesday to repeal President Biden’s plan to forgo more than $400 billion in federally backed student loan debt.
Lawmakers approved a resolution disapproving of Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan that was announced last year and is now stalled because of an ongoing legal challenge. The Supreme Court is expected to consider the legality of Biden’s plan later this summer.
On Wednesday, lawmakers voted 218-203 in an attempt to speed up the process and end Biden’s plan through legislation. Every Republican present voted to pass the resolution, along with just two Democrats.
During floor debate, Democrats argued that voting to end Biden’s plan would hurt the roughly 13% of Americans who are likely to qualify for loan forgiveness.
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“At a time when students need relief the most, Republicans are working to upend student loan forgiveness that started under Trump and now continues under President Biden for more than 40 million borrowers,” said Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif.
“Why for the love of God do Republicans want to continue to punch down on America’s students and divide our country?” he asked. “The Biden administration’s student debt relief plan is not a bailout, it is a lifeline, and I implore my Republican colleagues in Congress to speak with borrowers in their own districts about this very issue.”
Another Democrat, Rep. Maxwell Frost of Florida, argued that Republican opposition to Biden’s plan was based on the argument that most Americans don’t need loan repayment aid, and said by that logic, women and Black people would never have been allowed to vote.
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“Why do you bring that bigoted logic to this issue?” he asked. Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., asked for those politically charged words to be stricken from the record, and they were removed.
Republicans rejected Democrats’ arguments by saying Biden has no legal authority to wipe away hundreds of billions of dollars in student debt.
“In fact, he even admitted that to CNN host Anderson Cooper in February 2021 by saying, ‘I don’t think I have the authority to do it by signing with a pen,’” said Rep. Bob Good, R-Va., the sponsor of the resolution.
Foxx argued that Biden’s plan only helps the wealthy, going against the Democrats’ progressive values.
“Student loan cancelation is regressive,” she said. “Two-thirds of this debt transfer plan would go to the top half of earners. It takes from those in the lower half and gives to the upper half.”
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She added that the loan repayment pause that was instituted during the COVID pandemic resulted in a de facto $65,000 loan cancelation for the average lawyer.
“This is a professional class bailout,” she said. “More specifically, it is a professional class, graduate degree-holder bailout.”
Biden announced last summer that he would cancel up to $10,000 in student loans for people making less than $125,000, and up to $20,000 for students who received Pell Grants. That program was expected to cost the government more than $400 billion in lost debt repayment, but the program was put on hold after a court blocked it.
Good’s resolution was written under the Congressional Review Act, which lets Congress reject an executive branch policy as long as both the House and Senate pass a resolution disapproving of that policy. House passage sends it to the Senate, where it’s highly unlikely to win approval.
If it could be approved in the Senate, the White House said this week that Biden would veto it.