House Republicans passed a resolution Wednesday to overturn President Biden’s student debt relief plan that would give up to $20,000 in loan forgiveness to borrowers.
In a 218-203 vote, Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.) succeeded in his measure to terminate the pandemic-era student loan payment pause and cancel the potential relief for 40 million borrowers. The Biden proposal, which is also currently at the mercy of the conservative-leaning Supreme Court, is estimated to cost around $400 billion.
Two Democrats, Reps. Jared Golden (Maine) and Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (Wash.), joined Republicans in supporting the move.
The measure against the program, which the White House has threatened to veto, was brought under the Congressional Review Act (CRA), which allows Congress to suspend executive actions taken by the president. This move was only recently put on the table, after the Government Accountability Office said Biden’s plan was subject to the act.
While a victory for Republicans, it would be an uphill battle to get this measure through the Senate.
Democrats hold the majority in the upper chamber, though centrists such as Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) have previously criticized Biden’s student debt relief.
If it did pass, the Congressional Budget Office recently said it would reduce the deficit by around $320 billion over 10 years.
“This resolution is an unprecedented attempt to undercut our historic economic recovery and would deprive more than 40 million hard-working Americans of much-needed student debt relief,” the administration said in a statement.
Before the vote, a House Education and Workforce investment subcommittee held a hearing with two top Education Department officials about the Biden administration’s student loan policies.
The hearing focused on all the different actions the Biden administration has taken in regard to student loans, such as changing income-driven repayments and proposing a gainful employment rule.
Democrats brought up concerns during the hearing that the CRA measure, if passed, would make it so borrowers would retroactively have to pay back the interest for when their student loans were on pause the past three years.
Republicans say that would not happen and the concern is overblown.
“I’ve seen different legal opinions about whether it is retroactive or exactly how it would affect borrowers, but I think it is clear that it would be very disruptive and very confusing and make it challenging for borrowers to return to repayment successfully,” Under Secretary of Education James Kvaal said during the hearing.
Republicans used the time to point out how much the debt relief would cost the American taxpayer.
“The actions of the Biden administration alone have cost more than the federal government has spent on higher education over its entire pre-pandemic history, $744 billion from 1962 to 2019,” Rep. Erin Houchin (R-Ind.) said.
The heated arguments did not stop at the hearing.
During the ensuing floor debate, Rep. Maxwell Frost (D-Fla.) said Republicans used “bigoted logic” in their opposition to Biden’s student loan plan.
“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.
“See, if we legislated using your logic that because there was an injustice we can’t fix it because it’s unfair to those who never had it fixed — means we would never progress on any issue in this country. Why do you bring that bigoted logic to this issue as it relates to students but not any other issue?” he added.
“I demand his words be taken down,” Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), chairwoman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, immediately responded. Frost then withdrew the comment.
The measure adds another level of attack to Biden’s student debt relief as the plan is also under fire at the Supreme Court, where the administration waits for a ruling on the legality of the relief from the conservative-leaning court.
Updated at 6:32 p.m. EDT