The vote was 52-46, with support from Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Jon Tester of Montana as well as Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, an independent. The resolution was approved last week by the GOP-controlled House by a 218-203 vote.
Biden has pledged to keep in place his commitment to cancel up to $20,000 in federal student loans for 43 million people. The legislation adds to Republican criticism of the plan, which was halted in November in response to lawsuits from conservative opponents.
The Supreme Court heard arguments in February in a challenge to Biden’s move, with the conservative majority seemingly ready to sink the plan. A decision is expected in the coming weeks.
“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,” said Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy, lead sponsor of the Senate push.
The legislation aims to revoke Biden’s cancellation plan and curtail the Education Department’s ability to cancel student loans in the future. It would rescind Biden’s latest extension of a payment pause that began early in the pandemic. It would retroactively add several months of student loan interest that was waived by Biden’s extension.
It would also roll back months of progress borrowers made toward loan cancellation through the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. Those who recently had their debt canceled through the program would have their loans reinstated.
The GOP challenge invoked the Congressional Review Act, which allows Congress to undo recently enacted executive branch regulations. Passing a resolution requires a simple majority in both chambers, but overriding a presidential veto requires two-thirds majorities in the House and Senate, and Republicans aren’t expected to have enough support to do that.
“If Republicans were to get their way and pass this bill into law, people across the country would have relief they are counting on snatched away from them,” said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.
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