Just after news broke of President Joe Biden’s plan to fulfill his campaign promise to cancel student debt, Republicans introduced a bill that would explicitly bar him from doing so, despite evidence that the current towering burden of student debt constitutes a major economic crisis.
GOP Senators Bill Cassidy (Louisiana), John Thune (South Dakota), Richard Burr (North Carolina), and two others unveiled a measure that would bar the president from canceling student debt because of a national emergency, and limit the president’s ability to extend a student debt payment pause.
Their proposal, which is not likely to pass Congress, would also cap any future payment pauses for borrowers with a salary over four times the federal poverty line — or a mere $54,360 for single adults with no children. This is less thanthe average starting salary for college graduates from the class of 2020, which was $55,260.
The bill comes just after a potential breakthrough on the issue of student debt. Biden told House lawmakers in a meeting on Tuesday that he’s considering canceling a substantial amount of student debt after Democrats and debt activists have begged him for months to do so.
Roughly 43 million borrowers owe $1.9 trillion in student debt, according to the Student Debt Crisis Center. Debtors are often crushed by the weight of the debt, both financially and mentally; some owe triple or quadruple their original loan amount, and are burdened by the feeling or reality that the debt will never be repaid.
Debtors also face “hidden” costs due to their loans, with higher interest rates on things like home and car loans and credit cards. Canceling student debt could result in wide-reaching positive effects on the economy, boostingborrowers’ ability to buy a home or start a business.
Meanwhile, the student loan payment pause, which was originally put into effect by Donald Trump during the onset of the pandemic, has saved borrowers about $200 billion over the course of two years.
The Republicans argue that student loan cancellation and the payment freeze are a “handout” to wealthy college graduates and those who may have taken on loans for them, parroting a right-wing argument that the people who would benefit most from loan forgiveness are already wealthy and don’t need the money.
These arguments are based on false premises, however. People who take on student loans typically come from families without generational wealth that could cover the cost of tuition in the first place, and research has found thatstudent loan forgiveness is progressive, meaning that it would provide the biggest benefits to the least wealthy debtors. The higher the loan amount that is canceled, the more progressive the benefit, the Roosevelt Institute found last year.