Thune, GOP senators push bill to ban Biden from canceling student debt, as president mulls 'executive action'

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FIRST ON FOX – Senate Minority Whip John Thune and a group of GOP senators are introducing a bill to ban President Biden from canceling student loan debt, amid news Biden is considering doing just that. 

The bill would also limit how long the administration can pause student debt payments and add congressional oversight to the process. People with income above 400% the poverty line would be exempt from any pause. 

“As Americans continue to return to the workforce more than two years since the pandemic began, it is time for borrowers to resume repayment of student debt obligation,” Thune, R-S.D., said in a statement. “Taxpayers and working families should not be responsible for continuing to bear the costs associated with this suspension of repayment.”

Thune added: “This common-sense legislation would protect taxpayers and prevent President Biden from suspending federal student loan repayments in perpetuity.”

Federal student loan payments were first paused in May 2020 under former President Donald Trump. But as the economy exited the pandemic, Biden extended that pause multiple times after taking office, to criticism from Republicans. 

Progressives, meanwhile, are pushing Biden to completely forgive student loan debt via executive order. They say the crushing debt hanging over many college graduates’ heads is forcing them to delay major life decisions, and that student debt disproportionately affects minorities. 

Senate Minority Whip John Thune at a Senate Finance Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, May 12, 2021.

Senate Minority Whip John Thune at a Senate Finance Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, May 12, 2021.
(Susan Walsh/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)

Even top Democrats in Congress are pushing for Biden to cancel student debt. 

“I won’t stop working for President Biden to use his existing legal authority to #CancelStudentDebt,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., tweeted last week.

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It was reported this week that Biden told members of Congress he’s currently looking at options for how to make that happen with executive action. And White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday that’s on the table. 

Top Democrats in Congress are pushing for President Biden to cancel student debt.

Top Democrats in Congress are pushing for President Biden to cancel student debt.
(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

“He will make a decision before there’s an end to that pause. Right now, it’s been extended through August and we have talked about how we are looking at and he is looking at other executive authority options,” Psaki said. 

Thune is joined by Sens. Bill Cassidy, R-La., Richard Burr, R-N.C., Mike Braun, R-Ind., and Roger Marshall, R-Kan., in introducing the bill. 

Republicans say a continued pause on payments, or canceling student debt altogether, represents a bailout to high-income earners at a time when jobs abound. They also say the pause is fiscally irresponsible and subverts the will of Congress. 

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“The Biden administration continues to call for a return to normalcy from the pandemic, while simultaneously extending emergency relief programs like the student loan repayment freeze,” Burr said. “They can’t have it both ways. Resuming student loan repayments is long overdue, especially in today’s strong job market.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill, Jan. 4, 2022.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill, Jan. 4, 2022.
(AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

“The majority of Americans do not have college degrees,” Braun added. “Why should they be forced to pick up the tab for college degrees in the name of pandemic relief? This transfer of wealth is not a move to ‘advance equity,’ but rather a taxpayer handout to appease far-left activists.”

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“The administration is spending without congressional approval,” Cassidy said. “That should be considered unconstitutional.”

The legislation is likely more a messaging bill than anything. It’s highly unlikely enough Democrats in the House or Senate would support it to pass it to Biden’s desk. And it’s even more far-fetched that Biden would sign it. 

But it represents Republicans starting to dig their heels in on an issue that could develop into a major flashpoint in the midterms, as the current pause expires two months before the election. 

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