Floor Speech

Date: May 31, 2023
Location: Washington, DC


Ms. WARREN. Madam President, I rise today in opposition to Republican efforts to block President Biden's student loan debt relief plan, rescind the payment pause extension, and upend the lives of millions of hard-working Americans.

Now, it is no surprise that Republicans have prioritized an effort to block the President's plan to deliver critical relief to 43 million working- and middle-class student loan borrowers. Republicans in Congress have shown time and time again that they would much rather deliver relief to giant corporations and protect tax cheats than help working Americans whose biggest sin is to try to get an education.

I support the President's actions to help these hard-working Americans. But let's be very clear. The Republican plan goes far beyond rescinding President Biden's plan to cancel student debt. Republicans could have written their resolution to simply overturn debt cancelation. But, instead, they demanded something that is much more extreme. The Republican proposal would void the student loan payment pause that was in effect from last September through last December during the pandemic.

This means that if this CRA passes, it would rescind the President's plan to cancel debt for families that need it most. But it also means that everyone--everyone--whose payment was paused would immediately owe 4 months of back payments, plus interest. Republicans are asking Americans who benefited from a pause in payments to immediately pay back potentially thousands of dollars to Uncle Sam. Nearly 40 million Americans who are saving an average of $233 a month from the pause would be called on to cut a check to the Government for months of retroactive student loan payments, plus interest, all because they relied on the U.S. Government's statement that their loan payments were paused.

This extreme Republican resolution would harm millions of hardworking Americans. But there is even more. By rescinding the payment pause extension, this Republican legislation also endangers our public servants: teachers, nurses, firefighters, servicemembers, and others who are working toward paying down their debt program through the Public Service Loan Forgiveness, or PSLF.

If you are a public servant enrolled in public service loan forgiveness, every month of the pause counts toward your total of 120 payments before your balance is forgiven.

According to the Department of Education, more than 400,000 borrowers received Public Service Loan Forgiveness credit during September through December payment pause last year. This CRA would retroactively disqualify those months of credit toward PSLF, leaving teachers and nurses and firefighters further behind on their path to being debt- free.

And if you are one of the 260,000 public servants around the country who received credit for your final payment since September of last year, and you finally got your student debt balance forgiven, you, under the Republican plan, would be at risk of seeing your relief clawed back and being thrown back into debt.

Just to give an example for that: In Massachusetts, more than 5,500 public servants across our Commonwealth could see their loan balances restored. So they owe the money again.

In Louisiana, more than 3,600 of Senator Cassidy's own constituents could see their Public Service Loan Forgiveness taken away, and they would have to now pay more money.

Republicans have tried to sell this CRA as their attempt to block President Biden from canceling up to $20,000 of student debt for the working families that need it most. And they say there is nothing more here to see.

But make no mistake: Voting for this CRA is not just a vote against the President's student debt cancelation plan. It is also a vote to force nearly 40 million hardworking Americans to immediately pay back months of student loan payments and interest and restore an estimated $20 billion of student debt to the balances of tens of thousands of public servants.

Regardless of your feelings about student debt cancelation, that is a slap in the face to middle-class families, to working families everywhere in this country. And that is why labor unions, civil rights groups, and even centrist policy organizations are fighting against the Republican CRA, and it is why I urge every one of my colleagues to join me.