May 31, 2023

ICYMI: Senator Warren Delivers Speech Ahead of Republicans’ Attempt to Force Millions of Americans to Make Retroactive Student Debt and Interest Payments, Claw Back Debt Relief from Public Servants

“Republicans in Congress have shown time and time again that they’d much rather deliver relief to giant corporations and protect tax cheats than help working Americans whose biggest sin was trying to get an education.”

Video of Speech (YouTube)

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) delivered a speech on the Senate Floor ahead of Republicans’ latest attempt to block President Biden’s student debt cancellation plan, overturn the student loan payment pause extension, and endanger the financial wellbeing of tens of millions of hard working Americans.

The full text of her remarks is available below.

Remarks as Prepared by Senator Elizabeth Warren
May 31, 2023

Madame President, I rise today in opposition to Republicans’ efforts to block President Biden’s student loan debt relief plan, rescind the payment pause extension, and upend the lives of tens of millions of hard working Americans.

It’s no surprise that Republicans have prioritized an effort to block the President’s plan to deliver critical debt relief to 43 million working- and middle-class student loan borrowers. Republicans in Congress have shown time and time again that they’d much rather deliver relief to giant corporations and protect tax cheats than help working Americans whose biggest sin was trying to get an education.

I support the President’s actions to help these hard working Americans. But let’s be very clear: the Republican goes far beyond rescinding President Biden’s plan to cancel student debt. Republicans could have written their resolution to simply overturn debt cancellation. But instead, they demanded something that is much more extreme. The Republican proposal would void the student loan payment pause that was in effect from last September to last December during the pandemic. 

That means that if this CRA passes, it would rescind the President’s plan to cancel debt for families that need it most. But it also means that everyone whose payment was paused would immediately owe months of back payments—plus interest. Republicans are asking Americans who benefited from a pause in payments to immediately pay back potentially thousands to Uncle Sam. Nearly 40 million Americans – who are saving an average of $233 a month from the pause – would be called on to cut a check to the government for months of retroactive student loan payments, plus interest —all because they relied on the US government’s statement that their loan payments were paused. 

This extreme Republican resolution would harm millions of hard working Americans. But there’s even more. By rescinding the payment pause extension, this Republican legislation also endangers our public servants: teachers, nurses, firefighters, service members, and others who are working toward paying down their debt through the Public Service Loan Forgiveness, or PSLF, program. 

If you’re a public servant enrolled in PSLF, every month of the pause counts toward your total of 120 payments before your balance is forgiven. According to the Department of Education, more than 400,000 borrowers received PSLF credit during that September through December payment pause extension last year. This CRA could retroactively disqualify those months of credit toward PSLF, leaving teachers, nurses, and firefighters further behind on their path to being debt-free.

And if you’re one of the 260,000 public servants around the country who received credit for your final payment since September of last year and finally got your student debt balance forgiven, you are at risk of seeing your relief clawed back and being thrown back into debt.  

  • For instance, in Massachusetts, more than 5,500 public servants across the Commonwealth could see their loan balances restored. 
  • And in Louisiana, more than 3,600 of Senator Cassidy’s own constituents could see their public service loan forgiveness taken away.

Republicans have tried to sell this CRA as their attempt to block President Biden from canceling up to $20,000 of student debt for working families that need it most – nothing more. 

But make no mistake: voting for this CRA isn’t just a vote against the President’s student debt cancellation plan. It’s also a vote to force nearly 40 million hardworking Americans to immediately pay back months of student loan payments and interest and restore an estimated $20 billion of student debt to the balances of tens of thousands of public servants. 

Regardless of your feelings about student debt cancellation, that’s a slap in the face to middle-class and working families everywhere. That’s why labor unions, civil rights groups, and even centrist policy organizations are fighting against this Republican CRA, and why I urge every one of my colleagues to join them. 

Thank you, Madame President. I yield.