WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Wednesday vetoed GOP-sponsored legislation that sought to block his administration’s plan to provide debt relief for people who have taken out federal student loans.
“Congressional Republicans led an effort to pass a bill blocking my Administration’s plan to provide up to $20,000 in student debt relief to working and middle class Americans. I won’t back down on helping hardworking folks. That’s why I’m vetoing this bill,” Biden tweeted, along with a video explaining his decision.
Biden suggested that some Republicans who supported the measure were hypocritical because they had received loans for their small businesses during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The demand for this relief is undeniable,” Biden said in a message released by the White House. “In less than four weeks — during the period when the student debt relief application was available — 26 million people applied or were deemed automatically eligible for relief. At least 16 million of those borrowers could have received debt relief already if it were not for meritless lawsuits waged by opponents of this program.”
The Senate voted last week, largely along party lines, in favor of the legislation. It passed 52-46, with a few moderate senators — Democrats Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Jon Tester of Montana and independent Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona — voting with Republicans.
Only a simple majority of senators was needed to pass the legislation and send it to Biden’s desk. The House passed the measure in May, 218-203, also largely along party lines, with two Democrats — Jared Golden of Maine and Marie Gluesenkamp Perez of Washington — joining Republicans.
The resolution would have repealed the administration’s program to cancel up to $10,000 in loans for borrowers whose incomes fall below certain levels and up to $20,000 for those who received Pell Grants. It would have also ended a pandemic-era pause on loan payments and interest accrual.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court, with its conservative majority, is expected to rule on two cases regarding Biden’s debt relief plan this month. The program has been blocked since the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a temporary hold in October.