House GOP rebuked for 'cruel and reckless' ploy to reverse student debt relief

House GOP rebuked for 'cruel and reckless' ploy to reverse student debt relief

Advocates of student debt relief on Wednesday blasted Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives for passing a resolution that critics said showcases "their contempt for workers and families" who are burdened by loans taken out to access higher education.

H.J. Res. 45 is a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution, which U.S. lawmakers can use to overturn federal regulations. The measure passed the House in a 218-203 vote mostly along party lines; Democratic Reps. Jared Golden (Maine) and Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (Wash.) were the only members of their party to join Republicans in supporting it.

The resolution is unlikely to go anywhere in the Democrat-controlled Senate, and even if it did, the White House has already made clear that President Joe Biden would veto it. The GOP measure—a clear message to voters ahead of the 2024 elections—would block Biden's pending student debt cancellation plan and reverse already-delivered relief.

As Common Dreams reported Tuesday, the American Federation of Teachers and the Student Borrower Protection Center (SBPC) released a report detailing the "ruinous impact" the resolution would have on millions of borrowers.

"The record is clear: The damage caused by this cruel and reckless legislation will hurt working people, including millions of its right-wing supporters' own constituents," SBPC executive director Mike Pierce declared after the vote.

Pierce noted that "right-wing proponents have gone to great lengths to mislead their own colleagues and deny the truth—this effort would push hundreds of thousands of public service workers back into debt and require the government to charge tens of millions [of] borrowers for interest that has already been canceled."

"Should this become law, it will cause irreparable damage to the student loan system and undermine Americans' trust in their government," he warned. "This is exactly what extreme conservative lawmakers want, they are just afraid to say it."

SBPC and 260 other groups also criticized the resolution's supporters in a letter to congressional leaders earlier this month, charging that "policymakers now seeking to reverse such critical relief through the CRA are ignoring the economic needs of their own constituents and threatening our nation's financial security."

"Congress should be acting to improve the circumstances of the American people," the coalition argued, "not attempting to thwart the president's efforts to ease the financial pressure that so many are feeling."

Another letter signatory, the Center for Responsible Lending (CRL), called out the GOP-led effort just ahead of the vote Wednesday.

"This is yet another political stunt from some members of Congress to prevent tens of millions of borrowers, including low-wealth individuals, service members, public service workers, women, and people of color from receiving relief ahead of the Supreme Court's decision regarding the fate of student debt cancellation, said Jaylon Herbin, CRL's director of federal campaigns.

Herbin warned that "resuming the payment pause without student loan forgiveness, let alone requiring students to retroactively pay months' worth of student loan payments, will add thousands of dollars into the average borrower's loan balance, lead millions into forbearance and default, and contribute to a widening racial wealth gap.”

"These actions are not only irresponsible but demonstrate a genuine lack of concern for the nation's overall economic health and the financial well-being of millions of U.S. individuals and families," he added.

The House vote came not only as the U.S. Supreme Court considers a pair of right-wing challenges to Biden's debt relief plan, but also as congressional Republicans threaten to blow up the economy by refusing to raise the debt limit unless Democratic lawmakers and the president agree to spending cuts that would harm working people.

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