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Senate votes to strike down White House student loan forgiveness plan

President Biden is expected to veto the measure, which got the support of a handful of his Democratic colleagues.

WASHINGTON (CN) — The Senate on Thursday voted to strike down the Biden administration’s plan to cancel swaths of federal student loans, a move that sends congressional disapproval for the proposal straight to the president’s desk.

Two Democratic lawmakers — West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin and Montana Senator Jon Tester — crossed the aisle to support a Republican-led measure that would roll back the Education Department’s loan forgiveness program it unveiled in October. Arizona Independent Kyrsten Sinema joined in, bringing the final tally in the upper chamber to 52-46.

The measure, which survived a party-line vote in the GOP-controlled House last week, would also require the Department of Education to resume collecting existing student loan payments, a program put in place in 2020 at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

While the White House has framed loan forgiveness as a way to ease pressure on economically vulnerable Americans after the tribulations of a global pandemic, Republicans have said the plan would only benefit the wealthy or those with the means to pursue higher education.

Prior to the vote, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell threw his support behind the effort to scuttle student loan forgiveness.

“[Biden’s] student loan socialism would shift hundreds of billions of dollars in debt from high earners who chose to incur it onto the American taxpayers who did not,” the Kentucky Republican wrote Thursday morning.

“This is a win for the Constitution, for those who paid off their student loans, and for those who chose to forgo college,” wrote Tennessee Republican Marsha Blackburn following the vote.

President Biden has already said that he would veto the measure, setting up a possible override vote in Congress if Republicans hope to strike the loan forgiveness program down for good.

Senate Democrats, meanwhile, blasted Republicans Thursday for what they framed as a cold-hearted move against borrowers struggling under the weight of loans.

Massachusetts Democrat Elizabeth Warren framed the proposed disapproval measure as a plan to force millions of Americans to pay back paused student loans. “It’s shameful,” the lawmaker tweeted. “Thankfully we have President Biden who cares about working people & will veto this.”

Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, the Senate majority whip, said he was disappointed, but not surprised, that Republicans had voted to do away with the loan forgiveness program.

“Tens of millions of Americans are plagued by student loan debt,” Durbin said. “Now, Republicans refuse to give these borrowers a break.”

The Department of Education in October began accepting applications for its student loan forgiveness program. Once approved, applicants who hold federal Pell grants would be eligible for up to $20,000 in loan cancellations and borrowers with other types of federal debt could get up to $10,000 in forgiveness.

Even if the Education Department’s loan forgiveness program survives congressional oversight, the jury is still out on whether borrowers will see their loans canceled. The Supreme Court is expected as early as this month to rule on two separate cases challenging the government’s authority to implement such a plan. President Biden has left open the possibility that loan forgiveness may not come to fruition.

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Categories / Education, Government, National, Politics

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