In a crucial move, President Joe Biden has put the kibosh on a conservative-sponsored bill aimed at rolling back his plan to alleviate the burden of student debt. Biden’s blueprint proposed providing up to $10,000 of debt forgiveness to students earning less than $125,000 annually, and a more substantial relief of $20,000 for Pell Grant recipients.
The GOP bill, which aimed to cancel this relief, had already been approved by the House and Senate, primarily with support from party lines. Even some members of the Democratic Party, like Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, along with Representatives Jared Golden and Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, sided with Republicans to greenlight the bill.
But for now, Biden’s plan is on ice, as it awaits the final verdict from the Supreme Court, which seems inclined to overrule it. Advocates of student debt have warned that the GOP bill would unfairly burden borrowers with retroactive payments for student loans that were paused during the loan payment halt.
On Thursday, Biden vetoed the GOP bill, standing firmly by his commitment to aid millions of low-income and middle-class families. His refusal to step back has helped to expose the hollow rhetoric of Republicans who argue against student debt relief while simultaneously benefiting from substantial loan forgiveness themselves.
Don’t be fooled, Biden warned, by Republicans opposing the plan. Several of those members of Congress, who received substantial relief via the Payment Protection Program (PPP) during the pandemic, now hypocritically claim the student debt relief plan is ‘unfair’. Figures like Rep. Mike Kelly, who got almost a million dollars in PPP loans forgiven, along with Representatives Vern Buchanan and Kevin Hern, and Senator Markwayne Mullin, each of whom pocketed over a million dollars, have criticized student debt relief as elitist.
In a video message on the veto, Biden called out these Republicans for their selective concern. These Congress members, he pointed out, voted for extensive tax cuts for wealthy corporations, but balked when it came to aiding hardworking Americans struggling with student debt.
Despite Biden’s veto, recent actions have stirred the waters of student debt relief. The recently passed debt limit deal, agreed upon by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and Biden, puts a halt to the student loan payment pause as of August 30, and it prohibits further extension of the pause. Biden has praised this bipartisan effort, but the consequences for student debtors remain to be seen.
In this tussle between progressive relief and conservative pushback, one thing is clear: the battle for student debt relief is far from over. Biden’s veto sends a message of hope, but the ultimate outcome hinges on consistent pressure to prioritize students over political gameplay.