WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden vetoed legislation on Wednesday to block his attempt to grant student debt relief through executive action.
The measure, which the Senate cleared last week, will now go back to Capitol Hill for a possible override attempt, which would be unsuccessful based on the support it received to date. The effort by the president and the Department of Education to cancel up to $20,000 per borrower based on financial circumstances has been blocked pending a decision by the Supreme Court.
“It is a shame for working families across the country that lawmakers continue to pursue this unprecedented attempt to deny critical relief to millions of their own constituents, even as several of these same lawmakers have had tens of thousands of dollars of their own business loans forgiven by the Federal Government,” Biden said in his veto message.
The legislation was introduced as a joint resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act, which allowed for the expedited consideration in the Senate leading to simple majority passage.
The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in February and a decision is expected before the end of the term later this month on the ultimate outcome of the proposal, which has been the subject of strident Republican opposition. The bill passed the Senate with 52 votes in support after receiving 218 votes in favor to pass the House on May 24, well short of the two-thirds majority needed to override a veto in either chamber.
Republicans have been arguing that the debt relief is effectively a bailout for wealthier people with college degrees, a charge the White House has sought to dismiss.
“The President’s student loan schemes do not ‘forgive’ debt, they just shift the burden from those who chose to take out loans onto those who never went to college or already fulfilled their commitment to pay off their loans,” Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy, the ranking Republican on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said in a statement after Senate passage.
“Our bipartisan resolution prevents average Americans, the 87 percent of whom currently have no student loans, from being forced to foot the bill of these unfair and irresponsible policies.”
The relief action to reduce loan amounts is separate from the coming end of a pause on student loan repayments originally begun by former President Donald Trump during the coronavirus pandemic. Biden had previously said the pause would end in September, and the bipartisan budget and debt limit suspension package that he signed over the weekend would keep him from further postponing the resumption of payments.
(Daniela Altimari contributed to this report.)