Congressional Republicans have announced plans to try to repeal President Joe Biden’s broad student loan forgiveness initiative, without waiting for the Supreme Court to issue a ruling on two legal challenges seeking to strike the program. But their efforts may be a long shot.
Here’s what borrowers should know.
Biden’s Student Loan Forgiveness Plan Is In The Hands Of The Supreme Court
Biden first announced his sweeping student loan forgiveness plan last year. Under the initiative, the Education Department estimates that up to 40 million borrowers could receive either $10,000 or $20,000 in federal student debt relief, depending on whether or not they received a Pell Grant for their education and earned income below the program limits. Over 26 million borrowers applied for student loan forgiveness, and over 16 million were approved, before federal courts blocked the program last fall in response to legal challenges.
The Biden administration appealed those rulings to the Supreme Court, which held oral arguments in February. Biden himself has expressed confidence that the program is legal, but it is far from clear if the Supreme Court will agree. A decision is expected by June.
Republicans To File Legislation To Repeal Student Loan Forgiveness Before Supreme Court Rules
Last week, congressional Republicans announced that they plan to try to repeal Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan via the Congressional Review Act, a statute that allows Congress to review and repeal recently-enacted federal rules and regulations via an expedited legislative process. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a decision on Friday that Biden’s student debt relief initiative is actionable under the Congressional Review Act, potentially clearing the way for Republicans to act.
“The Government Accountability Office confirmed today what the American people already knew: the President cannot rule by press release,” said Education and the Workforce Committee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) in a statement. “The Congressional Review Act is one of Congress’s key tools to hold the executive branch accountable for not implementing laws with fidelity. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the House and the Senate to hold the Biden administration accountable for this illegal, unfair, and costly student loan bailout.”
Three Republican senators — Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, John Cornyn of Texas, and Joni Ernst of Iowa — vowed to quickly introduce a resolution to repeal Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan.
“The Biden administration’s tuition bailout is bad public policy, and it’s unfair to people who’ve paid their college debt off by working multiple jobs or consciously meeting their obligations,” said Senator Cornyn in a statement on Friday. “This would block President Biden’s political gambit from driving up inflation, incentivizing universities to raise tuition, and forcing hardworking Texans to pay off the debts of wealthy graduates.”
The Biden administration pushed back on the GAO and the latest Republican efforts to block student loan forgiveness. “This longtime statutory authority has never been subject to the Congressional Review Act,” said the Education Department in a statement. The department was referencing the HEROES Act of 2003, the statute that the administration argues authorizes the plan. “GAO’s decision is at odds with clear longstanding practice, and the Department remains fully confident that its debt relief plan complies with the law.”
Republican Effort To Repeal Student Loan Forgiveness Faces Hurdles
Resolutions under the Congressional Review Act can be passed quickly by Congress due to an expedited legislative process — well before the Supreme Court is expected to rule on Biden’s student loan forgivenes program.
A repeal can be passed by simple majorities in both the House and the Senate. Republicans hold a slim majority in the House, but Democrats hold a slim majority in the Senate, where the resolution could easily fail. However, it would just take two Democratic or non-aligned senators to join Republicans for the repeal effort to succeed. Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Syrsten Sinema (I-AZ) are both up for re-election in 2024 and have bucked the Biden administration on multiple occasions.
However, even if the resolution passes both the House and Senate, it would be unlikely to become law. In order for the repeal to take effect, President Biden would need to sign it — something he almost certainly would not do. Instead, Biden would probably veto the repeal effort. To overcome Biden’s expected veto, the House and Senate would each need a two-thirds majority — an unlikely scenario in such a closely-divided Congress.
Further Student Loan Forgiveness Reading
Student Loan Forgiveness Timeline And Deadlines Change Again In New Updates To One-Time Adjustment
Student Loan Forgiveness: Whether Biden Extends Payment Pause Again May Depend On Supreme Court Ruling
4 Student Loan Forgiveness Updates After Supreme Court Hearing
What Happens If The Supreme Court Strikes Down Biden’s Student Loan Forgiveness Plan?