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Why Republicans keep rolling out bills to stop Biden from cancelling student debt

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Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, talks to reporters during votes, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2022.
Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, talks to reporters during votes, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2022.Scott J. Applewhite/AP
  • Republicans are rolling out bills to stop Biden from cancelling student debt.

  • They argue debt cancellation amounts to a bailout of well-off Americans.

  • The White House is inching closer to debt forgiveness after seeing its agenda die in the Senate.

Republicans are on the offensive to try and prevent President Joe Biden from fulfilling one of his key campaign pledges.

Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah rolled out a bill on Wednesday aiming to bar Biden from unilaterally cancelling any portion of student loan debt. Other GOP senators like Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Thom Tillis of North Carolina are co-sponsoring the legislation.

That builds on an earlier bill unveiled late last month from GOP Sens. John Thune, Richard Burr, Mike Braun, Bill Cassidy, and Roger Marshall to do the same. They also want to keep Biden from extending the student loan repayment pause that's set to expire at the end of August.

The legislative salvoes come as Biden inches closer to unilaterally forgiving student debt. With his economic agenda on ice, the White House is weighing forgiving some student debt for borrowers earning below $125,000 — in line with the president's campaign pledge. Republicans may be powerless to prevent the move since their bills would quickly run aground into strong Democratic opposition.

But the Biden administration is getting pummeled by the GOP as a result. "Student loan socialism would be a giant slap in the face to every family who sacrificed to save for college, to every graduate who paid their debt, to every worker who made a different career choice so they could stay debt-free," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the Senate floor earlier this month.

Republicans are strongly opposed to debt forgiveness for a few reasons. Part of it rests on their view that it amounts to a bailout of well-off Americans who accumulated student debt from pursuing an undergraduate or graduate level education. Securing either of those degrees usually unlocks higher earning power.

"People who have paid that paid back their student loans are pretty offended at the idea, as well as working class voters who didn't go to college," Brian Riedl, an economist at the conservative-leaning Manhattan Institute, told Insider. "If you're gonna give huge bailouts to doctors, lawyers and MBAs, you're going to suffer a huge backlash with working class voters."

Democrats are betting that it'll allow Biden to claim a political win after most of his Build Back Better agenda was killed in the Senate by conservative Democrats. A Politico and Morning Consult poll published last month showed registered voters backed some student debt forgiveness by a 2 to 1 margin. For adults under age 30 — a group of voters Democrats are struggling with — support for the move skyrockets.

But Republicans and other groups opposed to debt forgiveness may have another recourse: the courts. A legal analysis written by the Obama administration's former top Education Department lawyer warned the move would be legally risky, the Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month.

Biden said early last year that he didn't believe he had the authority to uniliterally forgive a large amount of student debt.

Read the original article on Business Insider