U.S. Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., filed legislation Thursday aimed at preventing Democratic President Joe Biden from taking unilateral action to forgive any portion of the $1.6 trillion in student loan debt owed to the federal government by some 43 million Americans.
So far, the president generally has resisted calls to outright cancel student loan obligations. Though Biden has continued a policy begun in 2020 under Republican President Donald Trump that temporarily suspended student loan interest accrual and repayment due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In recent days, however, Biden also has hinted he might be open to some kind of partial student debt cancellation, perhaps up to $10,000 per borrower.
But White House press secretary Jen Psaki said any decision on student debt forgiveness won't be made until closer to the Aug. 31 expiration of the current repayment pause.
Braun's proposal would take that decision out of Biden's hands by barring the president from using the COVID-19 national emergency, or any other future emergency, as a basis for a total or partial cancellation of Americans' student loan debt.
It also would limit to 90 days any temporary suspension of student loan repayment due to a national emergency and deny repayment deferral to any borrower whose income is over 400% of the federal poverty level, or greater than $54,360 for a single individual.
Braun said postponing student loan interest payments due to the national public health emergency already has "cost" the federal government $100 billion, with most of the benefits going to doctors who borrowed heavily to complete their medical training.
"The majority of Americans do not have college degrees," Braun said. "Why should they be forced to pick up the tab for college degrees in the name of pandemic relief?
"This transfer of wealth is not a move to 'advance equity,' but rather a taxpayer handout to appease far-left activists."
Braun's proposal is co-sponsored by four Senate Republicans and also supported by U.S. Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind.
"The Biden Administration is once again succumbing to pressure from the far left by asking working Americans to pay for the college educations of doctors and lawyers," Young said.
"Seventy-five percent of repayment dollars under Joe Biden’s plan to cancel student debt would go to the top 40% of income earners. Asking Hoosiers who didn’t go to college or who have already paid off their debt to foot the bill for others is an egregious mistake that will do nothing to make higher education more affordable, which is what we should really be focused on."
The legislation likely has little chance of winning approval in the Democratic-controlled Senate, though a shift in party control following this year's general elections might improve its odds.
Federal data show student loan debt is the second-highest consumer debt category after mortgages, with the average federal student loan debt balance sitting at $37,113, not including any money borrowed from banks or other private institutions.
Approximately 58% of all student loan debt belongs to women and 68.6% of indebted student borrowers are between 25 and 50 years old, records show.