WASHINGTON (AP) — House Republicans passed a resolution on Wednesday that would overturn President Joe Biden’s student loan cancellation plan, but the White House has vowed to veto it and the plan remains on hold as the Supreme Court considers its fate.
It adds to the GOP’s ongoing attack on Biden’s one-time student loan cancellation, which was halted in November in response to lawsuits from conservative opponents. The Supreme Court is now weighing the plan after hearing arguments in February. A decision is expected in the coming weeks.
Biden’s plan would cancel up to $20,000 in federal student loans for 43 million Americans. About 26 million had applied for the relief before courts intervened.
The latest Republican challenge employs the Congressional Review Act, which allows Congress to undo recently enacted executive branch regulations. Passing a resolution requires a simple majority in both chambers, but overriding a presidential veto requires two-thirds majorities in the House and Senate.
The vote was 218-203, with two Democrats, Rep. Jared Golden of Maine and Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez of Washington state, supporting it.
Republican Rep. Bob Good of Virginia introduced the resolution in the House in March. Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., introduced it in the Senate, which has not taken up the measure.
On Monday, the White House promised to veto the resolution if Congress approves it. The debt cancellation is based on “decades-old authority granted by Congress” to protect borrowers from the impact of national emergencies, according to a statement from the Office of Management and Budget.
The GOP resolution is “an unprecedented attempt to undercut our historic economic recovery,” the White House said.
If enacted, the measure would revoke Biden’s cancellation plan and curtail the Education Department’s ability to cancel student loans in the future. It would also rescind Biden’s latest extension of a payment pause that began early in the pandemic.
The measure would retroactively add several months of student loan interest that was waived by Biden’s extension, according to a letter from more than 260 organizations urging Congress to reject it.
Passing it “would immediately force tens of millions of borrowers into abrupt and unplanned repayment with devastating effects,” the coalition said. The action would also end Public Service Loan Forgiveness, a student loan cancellation program for teachers, firefighters and other public workers, the letter said.
About 43% of U.S. adults approve of how Biden is handling student debt, according to a recent poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. That’s similar to his overall approval rating, 40%, but better than his ratings on the economy, gun policy and immigration. Biden gets credit for the issue among young adults in particular, with 53% under age 30 approving his handling of student loans.
Republicans say Biden overstepped his authority and illegally sidestepped Congress in pursuit of loan cancellation, which was a key campaign promise. Opponents say it’s too expensive and unfairly benefits college graduates at the expense of taxpayers who didn’t go to college.
Democrats say Biden’s plan gives needed relief to Americans hit hardest by the pandemic. They argue that federal law gives the Education Department wide authority to cancel student loans.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates that Biden’s one-time cancellation would cost about $315 billion.
Republicans have escalated their war on Biden’s student loan agenda in recent weeks. Last month, the House passed U.S. debt legislation that would have reversed Biden’s cancellation, ended the repayment pause and barred the Education Department from future debt forgiveness.
The bill, which was seen as dead-on-arrival in the Senate, also aimed to eliminate a new, more generous student loan repayment plan being pushed by Biden.
With neither party wielding a forceful majority in Congress, the Supreme Court could end up with the final say on the debate. The justices have been examining Biden’s plan in response to a challenge by six Republican-led states, along with a separate lawsuit brought by two students.