Former Vice President of the United States Mike Pence announces that he is running for President of the United States in the 2024 Election in Ankeny, Iowa, on June 07, 2023.
Kyle Mazza | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images
Republican leaders and presidential candidates filed in to applaud Friday’s Supreme Court decision striking down President Joe Biden’s student loan relief program.
“I am honored to have played a role in appointing three of the justices that ensured today’s welcomed decision,” said former Vice President Mike Pence, who served under Donald Trump in the White House and is now competing against him in the Republican presidential primary.
Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., another presidential contender, called the loan forgiveness plan an “illegal and immoral” bid to “transfer student debt to taxpayers.”
“If you take out a loan, you pay it back,” Scott said in a statement.
Biden’s debt-forgiveness effort would have canceled up to $20,000 in student loans for millions of individual borrowers, at an estimated cost of $400 billion.
Payments on those loans, which had been paused for more than three years by both the Trump and Biden administrations, are set to resume in October.
The 6-3 ruling, which split the conservative-majority court along ideological lines, sawed off a major plank of Biden’s sweeping agenda to provide relief for Americans impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s obviously a blow to the administration,” Katharine Meyer, an education policy expert and fellow at the Brookings Institution, said in an interview Friday.
Meyer noted, however, that she doesn’t expect the ruling will mark an end to the efforts to forgive student loan debt.
On Friday afternoon, the Biden administration announced that it was taking steps toward an “alternative path to debt relief” for “as many working and middle-class borrowers as possible.”
“No President has fought harder for student debt relief than President Biden, and he’s not done yet,” the White House said in a release.
Pence and others in the GOP, including the Republican National Committee, condemned the president’s plan as a subsidy for wealthy college graduates, a category that tends to lean Democratic.
But most borrowers don’t fit into that group: One-third of them owe less than $10,000, and another 20% owe between $10,000 and $20,000, according to data last year from The Washington Post.
“The vast majority of borrowers are those that have taken out fairly small loans, and a large share of them never earned a college degree,” Meyer said. “A lot of the individuals who would have benefited in some way from this policy are lower-income Americans.”
Other Republicans have put forward alternative plans for addressing the country’s burgeoning student loan debt.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, the main GOP primary rival to Trump, has proposed putting universities on the hook when their students default on their debt. Earlier this month, a group of Senate Republicans put forward a package of bills aimed to address “skyrocketing” higher education costs.
Canceling student debt is a popular idea: Polls have shown that most registered voters support at least some form of loan forgiveness.
As of 1 p.m. ET on Friday, neither Trump nor DeSantis had weighed in on the ruling.