In his first press conference Thursday, President Biden expressed his support for reform – if not removing – the filibuster. This could be good news for student loan borrowers hoping for more expansive student loan forgiveness and other debt relief.
Filing is a procedural tactic in the Senate that allows a minority party to block most laws by effectively imposing a 60-vote supermajority requirement to end debate. Democrats hold a 50 to 50 majority in the Senate (Vice President Kamala Harris would sever all ties).
President Biden said today that the filibuster has been “abused in a gigantic way” by Republicans in the Senate, and he indicated he would be open to reform. Biden said he would support existing proposals to force senators to “keep their word” during a filibuster, which is how the tactic has always been used. And if that doesn’t work out, Biden suggested he could potentially support the complete elimination of filibuster.
“If we’re going to do that, if there’s complete lockdown and chaos as a result of the filibuster, then we’re going to have to go beyond what I’m talking about,” Biden said.
This could be critical to the forgiveness of student loans and relief efforts. Some student loan reform proposals – such as improving income-tested quick payback period programs and relaxing the rules Borrower repayment defense program – received bipartisan support. But more sweeping proposals such as student loan cancellation and debt-free college have been much more partisan, with Republicans largely opposing such efforts.
Student loan borrower activists and groups, as well as Democratic congressional lawmakers, have been pushing President Biden to write off student debt using his executive authority for months. But while Biden supports student loan cancellation, he has expressed great reluctance to unilaterally write off student debt using management action. Many student loan legal experts have argued that Biden has the power to enact widespread student loan cancellation using executive power. But lawyers for the Education Ministry under former Secretary DeVos came to the opposite conclusion.
The president has repeatedly stated that he will support $ 10,000 in student loan cancellation for borrowers, but he also said his preference would be for Congress to pass student debt cancellation through legislation. Almost no Republican senator – let alone 10, the number needed to overcome an expected filibuster – has expressed support for the widespread forgiveness of student loans. Thus, unless there is a seismic shift in political positions, the chances of the student loan cancellation law being passed by the Senate remain low. But with the filibuster reformed or eliminated, Democrats could potentially pass a student loan cancellation law with a simple majority vote, with Vice President Kamala Harris breaking all ties.
Even this route, however, can be difficult. Conservative Democrats such as Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) have not been vocal supporters of a large student loan forgiveness, and it’s unclear whether they would support such efforts. Even without the filibuster, Senate Democrats would need unified support within their caucus to pass legislation, even through a simple majority.
As a result, student loan activists continue to push President Biden to bypass Congress and cancel student debt through executive action. Activists hold a week of action this week designed to keep the pressure campaign going.
Meanwhile, the Biden administration announced a reinterpretation of a federal student loan cancellation program that result in a $ 1 billion student loan cancellation. Biden also tasked the US Department of Justice to assess the legality of the enactment of the cancellation of student loans through executive action.
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