The House on Wednesday passed Republican-led legislation to overturn President Joe Biden’s student debt relief program and nullify the freeze on federal student loan payments and interest.
The rebuke of Biden’s student loan policies cleared the House on a 218-203 vote. The measure now heads to the Senate where it faces an uncertain path.
Vote breakdown: Two Democrats broke with Biden and joined with Republicans in voting to block student debt relief. Democratic Reps. Jared Golden of Maine and and Marie Gluesenkamp Pérez of Washington voted in favor of the GOP resolution.
Debt ceiling looms: Nearly all House Republicans already voted to block student debt relief as part of their bill last month to raise the debt ceiling alongside spending cuts and other policy changes.
The latest legislation passed the House as some conservatives are pushing Republican negotiators to continue to demand the White House agree to undo Biden’s student debt plan, which offers up to $20,000 of loan forgiveness for tens of millions of borrowers, in exchange for raising the debt ceiling.
Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) on Wednesday urged colleagues to “hold the line” and keep student debt relief as one of the items on the table in the talks, even though White House officials have said repealing the president’s policy accomplishments are a non-starter.
Floor debate: Republicans on Wednesday railed against Biden’s relief plan, criticizing it as too expensive and unfair to people who didn’t take out student loans.
Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.), the sponsor of the Congressional Review Act resolution, blasted Biden’s more than $300 billion debt relief plan as a “reckless, unfair, unlawful, unconstitutional student loan transfer scheme.”
“The Biden administration is simply transferring the debt from borrowers who willingly took out student loans to hardworking taxpayers who did not,” said Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), the chair of the House education committee.
Foxx sparred on the House floor with Rep. Maxwell Frost (D-Fla.) who accused Republicans of using “bigoted logic” in arguing that student loan forgiveness is unfair.
“If we legislated using the logic that you bring to this issue here today, women and Black folks wouldn’t have the right to vote because it would be unfair to those who never got to vote before them,” Frost said.
Foxx demanded that Frosh’s comments be taken down from the House record. After several minutes of deliberation among aides on the House floor, Frost withdrew the comments and continued with his speech.
Democrats defended Biden’s plan, pointing to Education Department estimates that most borrowers who would receive relief come from families earning below $75,000. The income caps on the program are $125,000 for individuals and $250,000 for couples.
“Student debt cancellation can and will change and save lives,” said Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), who was a key lawmaker pressuring Biden into canceling student debt and blasted the Republican effort to undo “gut essential relief” from borrowers.
Veto threat: White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Wednesday reiterated that Biden would reject the legislative effort to overturn his student debt relief program. “He will veto this bill,” Jean-Pierre said.
She criticized Republican lawmakers for “shamelessly” going after student loan forgiveness when some of them received forgiveness on their small business loans during the pandemic under the Paycheck Protection Program.
Jean-Pierre also defended the administration’s plan to cancel debt as a way to “help prevent borrowers from default when loan payments restart this summer.”
What’s next: The legislative effort to stop Biden’s student debt plan now heads to the Senate.
Under the Congressional Review Act, Republicans can force a vote in the Democrat-controlled chamber and bypass the typical 60-vote threshold needed to overcome a filibuster. The measure can pass with a simple majority vote.
Nearly all Senate Republicans have signed onto the resolution, S.J. Res. 22. But it’s not clear yet if Republicans, led by Sen. Bill Cassidy, the ranking member of the Senate education committee, will be able to convince a handful of moderate Democrats to break with the White House and vote against student debt relief.
Several Democrats have expressed concerns with Biden’s loan forgiveness plan but haven’t said whether they’d vote to block it.