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Senate Republicans come for Biden’s student debt backup plan
The senators oppose the administration’s alternative pathway because they say it encourages Americans to incur debt without taking responsibility.
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Three Senate Republicans introduced a resolution to overturn a proposed rule the Education Department is currently negotiating to provide a portion of the relief borrowers would have received had the Supreme Court upheld President JOE BIDEN’s student debt relief plan.
Sens. MIKE CRAPO (R-Idaho), JIM RISCH (R-Idaho), and BILL CASSIDY oppose the plan because they say it encourages Americans to incur debt without taking responsibility.
The average tuition and fees at four-year schools in 2020–2021 was $19,020.
Adjusted for inflation, the average tuition was $1,966.14 in 1965 when Risch earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Idaho.
Had you graduated in 1973 when Crapo earned his bachelor’s from Brigham Young University, it would have cost you $2,756.33.
Cassidy graduated from Louisiana State University in 1979 when the average tuition was less than $5,000.
The resolution was filed under the Congressional Review Act, a 1996 law that enables Congress to quickly overturn new federal regulations. Crapo, Risch, and Cassidy were joined by 14 Senate Republicans on the CRA resolution.
The House passed a CRA resolution to overturn President Biden’s original student loan plan, which would have canceled up to $20,000 for eligible borrowers.
Two House Democrats—Reps. JARED GOLDEN (D-Maine) and MARIE GLUESENKAMP PEREZ (D-Wash.) joined all Republicans to overturn the plan. One week later, Sens. JOE MANCHIN (D-W.Va.), KYRSTEN SINEMA (I-Ariz.), and JON TESTER (D-Mont.) crossed party lines to reject Biden’s plan with all Senate Republicans. President Biden would veto the resolution. Two weeks later, the House would attempt and fail to override the veto days before the Supreme Court ultimately struck down the plan.
After the Supreme Court’s decision in June, President Biden directed Education Secretary MIGUEL CARDONA to initiate a rulemaking process under the Higher Education Act to open an alternative path to debt relief for working and middle-class borrowers. The administration will take these new regulatory steps.
The first hearing for the negotiated rule was in July. Since then, the Education Department will finalize the issues addressed through rulemaking and is set to begin negotiating the terms of the proposed rule with affected interest groups during three virtual sessions beginning next month. (The department announced last week it is seeking nominations from 14 constituency groups for the Student Loan Relief committee.)
The White House did not respond to a request for comment on the latest CRA resolution.
4M BORROWERS SIGN UP FOR SAVE, PER WH
The Crapo-Risch-Cassidy CRA came on the same day the Biden administration announced four million borrowers have enrolled in the SAVE plan, an income-driven repayment program the Biden administration calls the most affordable of its kind ever created.
“Our top priority is to support borrowers as they prepare to return to repayment with the tools and resources that they need,” JASON MILLER, deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget, told reporters on Tuesday morning.
Under the SAVE plan, borrowers with undergraduate loans will have their payments reduced from 10 percent to five percent of their discretionary income.
If you have undergraduate and graduate loans, your payment will be weighted on average between five and 10 percent of your income based upon the original principal balances of the loan. The typical borrower is expected to save $1,000 per year on the plan.
JAMES KVALL, under secretary of education at the Department of Education, called the response impressive since the SAVE plan is so new (Biden announced it on June 30, the application soft-launched on July 30, and officially launched on August 22.)
“We know student loan bills are challenging for a lot of families,” Kvall said.
Since the end of July, 1.6 million borrowers have filled out an application for SAVE or another income-driven repayment program using the revamped site that enables the application to be completed in 10 minutes or less. Nearly one million of those borrowers specifically applied for the SAVE plan.
A source who applied for the program confirmed to Supercreator News the process took less than 10 minutes to complete.
“That isn’t the case if you have to dig up documentation that they’re asking for, but I had it handy so it was a matter of a simple upload,” the source said. “But sometimes you need certified documents and that can take a while to gather. So as long as you have all the files they ask for, it is a quick process.”
100,000 or more borrowers have enrolled in the program in 11 states: California (331,600), Florida (291,100), Georgia (178,600), Illinois (142,000), Michigan (143,600), North Carolina (144,300), New York (212,800), Ohio (181,400), Pennsylvania (170,200), Texas (345,800), and Virginia (104,800).
Wyoming has the lowest number of borrowers (5,100). However, Wyoming residents are the least likely to have student loan debt in the contiguous 48 states, per data from the Education Data Initiative published in April 2022.
The three sponsors of the aforementioned CRA resolution represent two states—Idaho (25,100) and Louisiana (63,800)—on the lower end of applications for the SAVE program, which likely makes their opposition to student debt relief a winner back home.
Interest resumed accruing on student loans on Sept. 1. The first debt repayments are due starting in October.
FEDERAL DISTRICT COURT STRIKES DOWN ALABAMA MAP—AGAIN
Federal judges blocked Alabama’s new congressional map after the Republican-controlled state legislature defied an order from the Supreme Court to draw a second majority-Black district.
The three-judge federal district court panel appointed a special master to draw new districts for the state. Alabama is expected to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.
“While we were outraged by the Alabama state legislature’s open defiance of the Supreme Court’s original order to create two majority-minority districts, I am nonetheless grateful that a federal court has now intervened to protect the voice of Alabama’s Black voters,” Rep. TERRI SEWELL, the state’s only congressional Democrat, said in a statement.
Rep. SUZAN DELBENE (D-Wash.), chair of the House Democrats’ campaign arm said in a statement the court’s ruling affirms why the Voting Rights Act of 1965 is still an critical law.
“Republican officials in Alabama continue to blatantly trample on the rights of voters, admittedly defying court orders, and I applaud the court’s efforts to ensure that Alabama has a map which reflects the diversity of the state, ensuring all voices are represented in Congress,” DelBene added.
Sens. DICK DURBIN (D-Ill.) and RAPHAEL WARNOCK (D-Ga.) said in a joint statement that although they were pleased with the court’s decision won’t distract them from reintroducing legislation to restore the full protections of the VRA.
In a 5-4 decision in June, the Supreme Court upheld a lower court’s ruling to strike down the first Alabama congressional map because it violated Section 2 of the VRA by discriminating against Black voters.
The decision paved the way for Alabama to add an additional majority-Black district and empowered plaintiffs in the over 30 redistricting lawsuits across 10 different states to continue challenging racist maps under Section 2. Once it’s all said and done, these challenges could net Democrats the seats they need to flip the House from the current Republican majority next year.
McCONNELL KINDA-SORTA-BUT-NOT-REALLY ADDRESSES THE FREEZE II
Senate Minority Leader MITCH McCONNELL (R-Ky.) quickly ended the suspense around whether he would provide more context into the incident when he froze on camera for half a minute while answering a question, the second such episode in a little more than a month.
“One particular moment of my time back home has received its fair share of attention from the press, but I assure you August was a busy month for me and my staff,” McConnell said in his first Senate floor remarks since the second freeze.
McConnell’s office circulated a letter from Dr. BRIAN MONAHAN, the attending physician of Congress, who said he reviewed MRI and EEG evaluations and consulted with the leader’s neurologists. Monahan determined the episode is not in connection with a seizure disorder or from a stroke, TIA, or Parkinson’s disease.
“There are no changes recommended in treatment protocols as you continue recovery from your March 2023 concussion.”
For the most part, Senate Republicans publicly supported McConnell when asked by reporters to assess his current fitness to lead the conference. Several added they expect to receive a more fulsome account from him during their weekly conference lunch this afternoon. And while he moseyed by without acknowledging reporters on his way to the Senate chamber, he’ll face an onslaught at the weekly post-lunch stakeout.
But Senate conservatives—JOSH HAWLEY of Missouri and RAND PAUL, Kentucky’s other senator—expressed skepticism.
“I am concerned about the president’s health. I am concerned about the minority leader’s health,” Hawley, 43, told reporters. “You can’t have it both ways,” while adding he was asked about the freeze by constituents during the recess.
Paul, a physician himself, suggested Monahan’s statement last week that the episode was due to dehydration and lightheadedness failed the eye test.
“I don't think it's been particularly helpful to have the Senate doctor describing it as dehydration, which I think even a non-physician seeing that probably aren't really accepting that explanation,” he said.
McConnell did make some news in his remarks though: He said the Senate will vote on the first group of appropriations bills next week as lawmakers face an end-of-month deadline to keep the government open.
McConnell also said the Senate will take up the president’s supplemental funding request for additional Ukraine aid and replenish the government’s disaster relief coffers.
WHITEHOUSE LODGES ETHICS COMPLAINT AGAINST ALITO
Sen. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE (D-R.I.) on Tuesday formalized his public criticisms of Justice SAMUEL ALITO in a letter to Chief Justice JOHN ROBERTS to lodge an ethics complaint that outlined five ways Alito appears to have violated the canons of judicial ethics.
“In the worst case facts may reveal, Justice Alito was involved in an organized campaign to block congressional action with regard to a matter in which he has a personal stake,” Whitehouse wrote. “Whether Justice Alito was unwittingly used to provide fodder for such interference, or intentionally participated, is a question whose answer requires additional facts.”
Whitehouse, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Courts subcommittee, has requested Roberts or the Judicial Conference investigate the situation and provide answers to the public.
Alito and Justice CLARENCE THOMAS were the subjects of a series of bombshell investigations by ProPublica in recent months that revealed a previously undisclosed trip Alito took with a billionaire businessman to a luxury resort in Alaska. Thomas accepted nearly annual trips from a wealthy Dallas-based real estate investor and sold a house and two empty lots in Savannah, Georgia to the investor but did not report the sale at the time. And the investor also paid for private school tuition for Thomas’s grandnephew but the justice did not report the gifts on his disclosure forms. Thomas amended his financial disclosure forms last week.
The Senate Judiciary Committee passed a Supreme Court ethics reform bill in July but it lacks Republican support in the House or Senate.
BIDEN NOTCHES ENDORSEMENT FROM MAJOR PROGRESSIVE GROUP
The latest endorsement for President Biden’s reelection came on Tuesday from Indivisible, a progressive advocacy group launched after DONALD TRUMP won the presidency in 2016.
The group said the early endorsement is the first step in uniting the left to defeat Trump again in 2024, codify abortion rights, balance the Supreme Court, ban assault weapons, create a fair economy, and transition to a green future—an ambitious list of legislative priorities even if Biden is reelected and Democrats retake the House and survive a brutal Senate cycle.
What’s notable about the endorsement is that a higher percentage of respondents who supported Indivisible’s reelection endorsement (97.2 percent) than the 95 percent who supported the group’s presidential endorsement in 2020.
“To win in 2024, the president needs a diverse and broad coalition of voters in every corner of the country,” JULIE CHAVEZ RODRIGUEZ, Biden-Harris 2024 campaign manager said in a statement. “And the organizing power of groups like Indivisible will be critical as we continue to build unprecedented support for President Biden and Vice President [KAMALA] HARRIS to finish the job for the American people.”
This is a critical time for the campaign: Trump is mired in legal proceedings at every turn and the hopefuls looking to swipe the Republican nomination from him are duking it out in a fierce primary.
Meanwhile, Team Biden is focused on shoring up the multiracial coalition that sent it to the White House as recent polling indicates some vulnerabilities among Black and brown voters.
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IN THE KNOW
President Biden on Monday tested negative for COVID-19. The test follows a negative test on Sunday night that followed the disclosure from the White House that First Lady Dr. JILL BIDEN tested positive. The president is scheduled to leave for India on Thursday and will be tested before traveling but White House Press Secretary KARINE JEAN-PIERRE declined to comment on whether he’d be tested on Wednesday as well. She also rebuffed questions about whether the White House has set up contingencies if he tests positive for COVID while in South Asia but did say Dr. Biden is feeling fine as she isolates in Delaware.
The Biden campaign announced a new ad that will air during Thursday night’s NFL season opener between the Detroit Lions and the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs. The ad—titled “Get to Work”—outlines the actions President Biden took to lead the economic recovery and is part of the 16-week, $25 million blitz the Biden-Harris 2024 campaign announced last month. Watch the ad.
Rhode Island is poised to send the first Black person from the state to Congress. Former Obama and Biden administration aide GABE AMO won a crowded Democratic primary on Tuesday and is now the heavy favorite this November to represent the state’s first congressional district. Former Rep. DAVID CICILLINE vacated the seat earlier this year, which hasn’t elected a Republican in more than three decades and Biden carried by a 29-point margin in 2020. Read WPRI’s coverage.
1:40 a.m. Vice President Harris met this morning with President JOKO WIDODO of Indonesia in Jakarta, the nation’s capital city.
2 a.m. The vice president gave opening remarks at the US-ASEAN Summit.
6:30 a.m. Vice President Harris is attending a gala dinner hosted by President Widodo and First Lady IRIANA JOKO WIDODO of Indonesia.
10 a.m. The Senate is in with three votes series scheduled (see below). President Biden will receive his daily intelligence briefing.
11:30 a.m. The Senate will vote to confirm the nomination of PHILIP JEFFERSON to be vice chair of the Federal Reserve and advance the nomination of GWYNNE WILCOX to be a member of the National Labor Relations Board.
2:15 p.m. The Senate will vote to confirm the Wilcox nomination (if advanced) and to advance the nomination of LISA COOK to be a member of the Federal Reserve. President Biden will welcome union leaders and members of a trade association to the White House to congratulate them on finalizing a new contract covering America’s west coast ports. Biden will also speak about empowering workers and strengthening the nation’s supply chains.
5:15 p.m. The Senate will vote to confirm the Cook nomination (if advanced) and to advance the nomination of ADRIANA KUGLER to be a member of the Federal Reserve.
The House is out.
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