Late on Wednesday, the Senate narrowly dismissed a Republican-led effort to overturn President Joe Biden’s new student loan repayment plan. The Democrat-controlled Senate voted 49-50 along mostly party lines to defend Biden’s income-driven payback option, known as “Saving on A Valuable Education” or SAVE. Notably, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia was the lone Democrat voting with the GOP.
Potential Veto and Plan Overview
President Biden signaled that he would have vetoed the two-step joint resolution if it had reached his desk. The SAVE plan, already enrolled by 5.5 million borrowers, aims to cap interest and tie monthly loan repayments to borrowers’ incomes and family sizes. For some, payments could be reduced to $0, making it, according to Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, the “most affordable repayment plan ever.”
Uphill Battle for Biden
While the vote to preserve the plan succeeded, it highlights the challenges Biden faces on various fronts, including the campaign trail, Congress, and the legal arena. Biden’s efforts to address student loan forgiveness and alleviate payment burdens remain contentious political priorities, especially as he eyes reelection.
Republican Opposition and Criticism
Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana led the early September introduction of the joint resolution, with other congressional Republicans opposing Biden’s plan. Cassidy criticized the lack of forgiveness for those who didn’t attend college, emphasizing its irresponsibility and unfairness on the Senate floor.
Democratic Response and Victory
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer applauded the defeat of the resolution, characterizing it as a victory for young people and the future of America. The attempt was criticized for sending, in Schumer’s words, a cruel message to working families.
Bernie Sanders’ Perspective
Sen. Bernie Sanders, who proposed forgiving the entire $2 trillion in student loan debt during his presidential campaign, expressed support for SAVE but asserted that Biden’s plans fell short. He emphasized the financial barriers hindering bright young individuals from pursuing higher education.
Partisan Divide and Biden’s Commitment
The political landscape reflects a deep partisan divide on student loan forgiveness, with Democrats generally supportive and Republicans mostly opposed. Despite the challenges, Biden remains committed to pursuing alternative plans after the Supreme Court rejected his broader loan forgiveness proposal this summer.
Student Loan Debt Challenges
Student loan debt, evolving into a political and economic crisis, reentered the spotlight as the pandemic-related payment pause ended. The return to repayment faced challenges, including system flaws, billing errors, and a federal probe into extended hold times.
Education Department Panel and Future Prospects
A panel convened by the Education Department is currently engaged in loan forgiveness discussions. While comprehensive relief may not emerge, targeted debt relief measures could materialize, subject to legal and political scrutiny. The third and final round of negotiations is set to conclude in December.