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Republicans target pause on student loan payments

White House's student loan forgiveness options
President Biden looking at student loan forgiveness options 04:49

Republicans are pushing back against letting student loan borrowers off the hook — even temporarily — as the White House is eyeing broader student loan debt cancellation. The Biden administration this month extended the pause on repayment that began at the beginning of the pandemic to August 31.

In a bill introduced Wednesday, a group of five GOP lawmakers moved to end President Biden's ability to keep extending the federal student loan payment pause.

The pause on student loans has saved millions of borrowers about $5 billion in interest a month, as interest rates were also set at zero while payments were suspended. In total, it's estimated to have saved borrowers $195 billion since March 2020, according to a recent report from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

The pause was last set to expire at the beginning of May. According to the Center for a Responsible Federal Budget, the extended pause will add an additional $20 billion to the deficit through August, bringing the total cost of the pause to $120 billion.

With the Stop Reckless Student Loan Actions Act, the Republican senators are looking to end President Biden's suspension of federal student loan payments. It would also prohibit the president from canceling outstanding federal student loan debt due to a national emergency. It would still allow the president to temporarily suspend repayments for low- and middle-income borrowers in future national emergencies.

"As Americans continue to return to the workforce more than two years since the pandemic began, it is time for borrowers to resume repayment of student debt obligations," said Senator John Thune of South Dakota in a statement. "Taxpayers and working families should not be responsible for continuing to bear the costs associated with this suspension of repayment."

He said any future suspension of federal student loan repayments should be left to Congress. 

Fellow GOP Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina said the administration "can't have it both ways" – both calling for a return to normalcy from the coronavirus pandemic while also extending the federal student loan payment pause.  He said resuming payments is "long overdue, especially in today's strong job market."

Senators Mike Braun of Indiana, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Roger Marshall of Kansas also support the bill.

While the legislation is not expected to go anywhere in the Democratic-controlled Congress, it's the latest call by Republican lawmakers to end the federal student loan payment pause. 

This comes as President Biden is looking into broader cancellation of student debt. In a meeting with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus on Monday, Mr. Biden said he's looking to forgive some federal student loan debt. 

The president asked officials to look into his legal authority to cancel student loan debt last year, but a decision has not been announced. Some Democrats have called for the administration to cancel $10,000 in debt while others have called for him to cancel $50,000 in debt. 

The White House said a decision would be made between now and the end of August on canceling debt or the pause would be further extended. 

While the administration looks at canceling student loan debt, officials have also said they're looking at the root of the problem with why higher education is so expensive. Some 43 million Americans have more than $1.6 trillion in federal student loan debt. 

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