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The Senate approved a bill Thursday that would repeal President Joe Biden's student loan debt forgiveness plan.
The 51-46 breakdown of yeas and nays Thursday largely mirrored that of the day before, when senators for the most part voted along party lines to proceed with a vote on the bill, underscoring their opposition to Biden's plan to forgive up to $20,000 of in student loan debt for tens of millions of borrowers. The plan to erase some borrowers' debt is already stalled because of two cases before the Supreme Court.
But Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia voted Thursday in favor of the resolution, as did Democrat-turned-Independent Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Democrat Jon Tester of Montana. All three had voted Wednesday to advance the measure for a full Senate vote.
Manchin's rationale for supporting the bill echoed Republican arguments that it would be unfair to working-class Americans and people who have worked to pay off their student loan debt.
"There are already more than 50 existing student loan repayment and forgiveness programs aimed at attracting individuals to vital service jobs, such as teachers, health care workers, and public servants," he said in a statement Wednesday. "This Biden proposal undermines these programs and forces hard-working taxpayers who already paid off their loans or did not go to college to shoulder the cost. Instead, we should be focusing on bipartisan student debt reforms that reduce the cost of higher education and help all Americans.”
The House passed the bill along party lines last week, although similar to the Senate, two Democrats voted with GOP lawmakers.
The White House has said it would veto the bill, and it doesn't appear Congress would have the votes to override that veto.
Democrats stress benefits to working-class Americans
Democrats assert the bill would harm the very people Republicans say they intend to shield.
"Republicans in Congress have shown time and time again that they’d much rather deliver relief to giant corporations and protect tax cheats than help working Americans whose biggest sin was trying to get an education," Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren said ahead of Wednesday's vote.
'Massive new program': Supreme Court majority signals skepticism over Biden's student loan forgiveness plan
Sen. Alex Padilla, a Democrat from California, said too many Americans' prospects are "determined by their parents' paycheck." Working- and middle-class families, and particularly those of color, "have to risk dangerous levels of debt just for the chance of achieving their American dream."
"I remember what it felt like filling out financial aid forms and facing the brutal reality that when I was looking forward to attending the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the cost of tuition alone was bigger than my dad’s W-2," Padilla said.
Padilla said it took a combination of Pell Grants, scholarships, work study and student loans for him to afford college. "The president’s plan ... it’s part of helping address the racial wealth gap in America," he said, adding that under Biden's plan, almost half of Latino borrowers would see their entire debt forgiven.
While Republicans have zeroed in on how some of the loan forgiveness would apply to households with up to $250,000 in combined income, "nearly 90 percent of the relief provided by the Department of Education would go to Americans earning less than $75,000 per year, and no relief would go to any individual or household in the top 5 percent of incomes," the White House said. "Americans should be able to have a little more breathing room as they recover from the economic strains associated with the COVID-19 pandemic."
Warren and other Democrats say Thursday's measure in the Senate also would result in people who benefited from a pause on payments immediately owing months of back payments plus interest, which Republicans deny.
The debt ceiling deal means student loan payment pause 'gone', Speaker Kevin McCarthy says.
Other GOP efforts to undo student loan forgiveness
Thursday's vote is the latest in a series of moves to undo Biden's actions on student loans. The deal on the debt ceiling that passed the House late Wednesday includes a provision ending the pause on student loan payments first put into place by former President Donald Trump at the start of the pandemic. Payments were already set to resume 60 days after the Supreme Court rules on the fate of Biden's loan forgiveness plan.
An earlier version of a measure to raise the debt ceiling that passed in the House in April also would have repealed student loan debt forgiveness.
Debates have consistently focused on who's responsible for shouldering the skyrocketing student loan debt.
Sen. John Cornyn of Texas called Biden’s plan “student loan socialism.”
“A college degree is not a shared experience. It’s not like roads, hospitals or police departments, which benefit everyone," he said. "Individuals in debt made the decision to borrow the money, and they alone will reap the benefits of that degree.”
Should student loan debt be forgiven? Americans are split ahead of Supreme Court ruling.
Contact Alia Wong at (202) 507-2256 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @aliaemily.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Biden student loan forgiveness plan repealed in Senate; veto expected