By Ella Azoulay | April 3, 2023
Update: more recent analysis is available at https://protectborrowers.org/public-service-workers-decry-republican-cra-scheme-to-push-millions-deeper-into-debt/
Last week, U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Representative Bob Good (R-VA05) introduced Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolutions (S.J.Res.22/H.J.Res.45) that aim to overturn the pause on federal student loan payments and block President Biden’s debt relief plan. If enacted, these efforts will wreak havoc upon borrowers when they can least afford it.
Today, we’re releasing a new analysis underscoring the massive benefit that the payment pause has had for borrowers, and the even greater benefits that President Biden’s relief plan would add on top of it—as well as the catastrophic harm that would arrive if these policies are overturned.
If passed, the CRA will be financially devastating to borrowers, their families, and communities across the country.
The CRA resolution would overturn the seventh federal student loan payment pause that expired in December 2022 and force the U.S. Department of Education (ED) to immediately resume monthly payments. By taking aim at the payment pause, which was implemented under the Trump Administration and enjoyed bipartisan Congressional support up until recently, the CRA would impact more than 37 million people, abruptly pushing tens of millions of borrowers into unplanned repayment and leading to thousands of dollars in payments and interest being added back onto their loans. In addition, the resolution would sow chaos among many of the other critical student loan programs which are intertwined with the payment pause—such as income driven repayment (IDR) and Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF). The resolution could force ED to unwind the credits towards forgiveness that had been earned by low-income borrowers and public service workers since the last extension of the payment pause, with potentially catastrophic consequences for borrowers with loans forgiven under PSLF.
Research has shown time and time again that ending the payment pause will be disastrous for borrowers, who are already barely able to make ends meet, without taking into consideration the financial havoc the pandemic has wreaked on household balance sheets across the country.
Moreover, by reversing President Biden’s debt cancellation plan, the dozens of members of Congress who signed onto the CRAs will ensure that the racial wealth disparities, defaults and delinquencies, and broader cascading economic consequences associated with the student debt crisis will continue to worsen. Research shows that student debt delays and prevents borrowers from owning a house, starting a family, getting married, changing jobs, being able to retire, and starting a business. It is clear that this situation will only worsen if members of Congress succeed in suddenly reversing the payment pause and President Biden’s cancellation plan.
To underscore the disastrous effects the CRA efforts portend for borrowers, the SBPC has conducted a new analysis to demonstrate the profound impact that President Biden’s vital relief measures have already had on families and communities across the country.
Revoking student debt relief would be an unmitigated and unprecedented government-imposed disaster.
Every single policy that can protect or relieve student loan borrowers is sorely needed. More than 43 million borrowers continue to suffer under the crushing weight of $1.6 trillion of federal student debt, and the federal payment pause provided more meaningful breathing room for borrowers than ever before. Over the course of the last several months alone, borrowers collectively were able to shift more than 222 million student loan payments—an estimated savings of roughly $30 billion—to save for retirement, afford necessary medication, or simply make ends meet. That breaks down to a mind-boggling $5 billion saved each month by borrowers—which borrowers would be on the hook for should this CRA effort be successful.
CRA efforts will have a widespread impact on public service workers and their ability to escape their student debt.
In addition, ED data show that from September 2022 to January 2023, over 156,000 public service workers nationwide received student debt cancellation through PSLF. These are nurses, educators, first responders, and others working in public service that could see their loans reinstated if these CRA efforts are successful. Across Louisiana alone, over 2,000 of Senator Cassidy’s own constituents could see their public service loan forgiveness stolen away. In Virginia, more than 4,800 residents across the Commonwealth—including Representative Good’s own constituents—could see their PSLF relief undone and their loans reinstated. Members of Congress should be pushing policies that help protect their constituents, not actively pushing them into financial ruin.
These actions are a harsh reminder of the great lengths opponents of debt relief will go to attack student loan borrowers and their families. Maya Angelou taught us that when someone shows you who they are, believe them. And it is long past time that we do so. It is clear that opponents of debt relief will stop at nothing for the chance to play politics with the economic livelihoods of millions of student loan borrowers–including their very own constituents.
Ella Azoulay is the Research & Policy Analyst at the Student Borrower Protection Center. She joined SBPC from the Center for American Progress where she worked on higher education policy and advocacy.
 SBPC calculation based on data from the U.S. Department of Education: