Republicans criticize Biden administration for freezing student loan payments again

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Despite national polls showing debt relief has popular and bipartisan support, Republicans have worked against Biden’s actions at every step.

The Department of Education announced on Tuesday that a moratorium on student loan repayments would be extended while the Department of Justice undertakes appeals of lower court rulings against President Joe Biden’s plan for permanent debt relief.

The extension will remain in effect until either 60 days after the Supreme Court reviews and resolves the case, or 60 days after June 30, 2023, the department’s announcement stated. Republicans have attacked the Biden administration for their debt relief actions despite bipartisan support amongst voters for them.

The Biden administration announced its student debt relief plan in August, estimating that 40 million Americans would benefit from the action. In response to a challenge from six Republican state attorneys general, the U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals issued an injunction that required the administration to pause accepting applications for relief on Nov. 11.

Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona on Tuesday called conservative court challenges to Biden’s relief plan callous, noting in a statement that they have “caused tremendous financial uncertainty for millions of borrowers who cannot set their family budgets or even plan for the holidays without a clear picture of their student debt obligations.”

The department said it would extend the pause on student loan payments that began in March 2020, early on in the COVID-19 pandemic. The pause was originally supposed to end on Dec. 31.

“I’m completely confident that my plan is legal,” Biden said in a video released by the White House on Tuesday. “We’re not going to back down though in our fight to give families breathing room. That’s why the Department of Justice is asking the Supreme Court of the United States to rule on the case.”

Congressional Republicans, who have long opposed student debt relief, attacked Biden and the Department of Education over the extension.

Sen. Deb Fischer of Nebraska said it was “another attempt by the admin. to extend an illegal scheme,” while Rep. Virginia Foxx of Virginia, the highest-ranking Republican on the House Education and Labor Committee, called it “fiscal insanity” and an attempt to “appease radical members of his party and left-wing advocacy groups on Twitter.”

Rep. Lisa McClain of Michigan said the pause was reckless and a cause of inflation; Rep. Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin called it a “gross abuse of power” that allows the “cancer of executive authority” to spread; Rep. Jason Smith of Missouri said the moratorium was Biden “shamelessly” using the pandemic to advance “his welfare for the wealthy agenda;” and Rep. Tim Walberg of Michigan tweeted, “Stop the madness.”

By contrast, Biden’s decision was praised by congressional Democrats. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer tweeted: “Thank you President Biden. The law is on our side.”

Biden’s plan to relieve student debt has been praised by the civil rights organizations the NAACP, the National Urban League, and UnidosUS, along with the National Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers, and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

The public has shown support for relief across party lines. An Aug. 19-21 poll by Data for Progress found 60% support among surveyed voters for student debt relief. Relief was backed by 45% of Republicans, 52% of independents, and 81% of Democrats.

In the 2022 midterm election, in which Republicans underperformed expectations and failed to take control of the Senate, exit polls showed voters aged 18-29 overwhelmingly supporting the Democratic Party (63% for Democrats, 35% for Republicans). Polling has also shown younger voters expressing the most support for debt relief.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.