President Biden has vetoed a measure that would have overturned his student debt relief plan, leaving the fate of the program in the hands of the Supreme Court.
“Congressional Republicans led an effort to pass a bill blocking my Administration’s plan to provide up to $20,000 in student debt relief to working and middle class Americans,” Biden said in a tweet Wednesday. “I won’t back down on helping hardworking folks.”
“Let me make something really clear, I’m never going to apologize for helping working- and middle-class Americans as they recover from this pandemic, never,” Biden said.
The president’s proposal, which has been a target of Republicans since he first unveiled it, would impact 40 million borrowers, providing $10,000 in loan forgiveness to those making less than $125,000 annually and $20,000 in forgiveness for Pell Grants recipients.
A two-thirds majority vote in both the House and the Senate would be required to override Biden’s veto, a threshold opponents of Biden’s effort cannot reach.
In a statement Wednesday, Biden said he vetoed the solution because he is “committed to continuing to make college affordable and providing this critical relief to borrowers as they work to recover from a once-in-a-century pandemic.”
The measure to block the plan passed the Senate this month in a 52-46 vote and cleared the GOP-majority House in a party-line vote, with two Democrats joining Republicans.
In the Senate, Democratic Sens. Jon Tester (Mont.) and Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) joined Republicans in voting to nix Biden’s proposal.
The measure was brought up as a joint resolution under the Congressional Review Act (CRA), which allows Congress to nullify newly-placed rules and regulations. Such measures are not subject to the filibuster, so Democrats in the Senate could not block the measure, and a supermajority of 60 votes was not required to advance it.
The Supreme Court is still considering the plan, but the conservative majority is expected to strike it down. Justices displayed skepticism during February oral arguments that the Biden administration has the power to forgive up to $20,000 in student loans.
Biden officially announced the plan in August, after making forgiving student debt a campaign promise and feeling pressure from progressives to act.
While progressives hailed the plan as a good first step toward forgiveness, moderate Democrats and Republicans voiced concerns over the cost to taxpayers, which is expected to be about $400 billion.
When the president announced his plan, he also announced the upcoming end to the pandemic-era student loan payment pause that was put in place in March 2020 under former President Trump and has since been extended several times.
The resumption of payments was locked in with the passage of the bipartisan debt ceiling agreement, which included a hard cutoff date of 60 days after June 30.
Updated at 6:18 p.m. EDT.