4 Reasons Congress Didn’t Cancel Your Student Loans
Congress still hasn’t canceled your student loans. Here are 4 reasons why.
Here’s what you need to know — and what that means for your student loans.
If you’re wondering if your student loans will be forgiven, you can turn to Congress. Several senators and representatives have proposed the large-scale cancellation of student loans. For example, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has proposed the cancellation of all student loan debt, including private and federal student loans. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) have proposed student loan forgiveness for up to $50,000. A new proposal from a fellow Democrat would cancel just $25,000 in student loans. Even with all of these proposals, Congress has not voted on any of these plans. Here are 4 reasons why:
1. Republicans don’t support mass student loan cancellation
Democrats can control Congress, but the Senate is split 50-50. Vice President Kamala Harris can break a tie vote, but passing legislation on large-scale student loan forgiveness would typically require 60 votes. That means Republican support would be needed. Republicans generally do not support mass student loan forgiveness for all or most student borrowers. (6 major changes to student loan forgiveness). Republicans have backed higher education reforms, including the cancellation of civil service loans and temporary student loan relief that suspended student loan repayments during the Covid-19 pandemic. However, many Republicans view the massive cancellation of student loans as a misdirected redistribution of wealth. For example, Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), the lead Republican on the House Education and Labor Committee, said large-scale student loan forgiveness was a mistake. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) said if Biden extended student loan relief for the fourth time, it would be a “terrible idea.”
2. Democrats also don’t support large-scale student loan cancellation
While many progressive members of Congress support large-scale student loan forgiveness, the policy is not universally popular among Democrats. (Where Biden stands on student loan relief). This may come as a surprise given the rhetoric that dominates the headlines about student loans. However, not all Democrats support canceling student loans for all or most student borrowers. Most Democrats support targeted student loan forgiveness, such as public service loan forgiveness, borrower defense against repayment, teacher loan forgiveness, and income-contingent repayment. However, if a vote were held today on mass student loan forgiveness, Democrats would not have the votes to pass the legislation. (Student loan borrowers can go on strike, refuse to pay student loans). For Democrats who support large-scale student loan cancellation, there are divisions over how much student debt to cancel. Some Democrats want $50,000 in student loans canceled. Others want all student loan debt erased. Other Democrats want $10,000 in student loans forgiven, as proposed by President Joe Biden. (Biden canceled $15 billion in student loans). Without a firm plan that enjoys broad support, it’s hard to imagine Congress enacting the mass cancellation of student loans.
3. Congress is waiting for Biden to enact large-scale student loan forgiveness
Another reason Congress didn’t cancel student loans? Congressional progressives are waiting for Biden to enact large-scale student loan forgiveness. Democrats acknowledge that there is no widespread support among their colleagues for pushing through student loan cancellation. Thus, they constantly pressured Biden to act. Yesterday, 210 organizations wrote a letter to Biden demanding substantial student loan forgiveness. Schumer and Warren have consistently pressured Biden to sign an executive order to erase $50,000 in student loans for borrowers. Biden backs $10,000 in student loan forgiveness, but he wants Congress to pass legislation first. Biden said he does not believe he has unilateral legal authority to cancel student debt for all or most student borrowers.
4. Congress focuses on other priorities
Congress can certainly manage multiple policy objectives simultaneously, but Congress can focus on other priorities. From the Russian-Ukrainian conflict to Covid-19, Congress may not be so focused on canceling student loans anymore. Additionally, Congress is still working to pass Biden’s legislative agenda, including Build Back Better.
(Biden did not mention student loans in his State of the Union address)
Student Loans: What Happens Next?
Last week, White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain said Biden may consider extending student loan relief beyond May 1. Klain also said student loan forgiveness could also be considered. For there to be large-scale student loan cancellation, either Congress must vote or the President must act. If Congress passes legislation, that would be the more traditional route. The president is less likely to act unilaterally, and even if he does, legal challenges can delay implementation for months or more. It is important to note that temporary student loan relief is scheduled to end on May 1, 2022. This means that federal student loan repayments will resume, so make sure you are prepared for this transition. Here are some smart ways to pay off student loans faster: