White House claps back at lawmakers who criticized student loan relief after PPP loans were forgiven

Republican lawmakers rushed to social media this week to criticize President Biden’s plan to erase $10,000-$20,000 in federal student loan debt for 43 million borrowers, but the White House was ready with their own receipts.

In a series of tweets Thursday afternoon, the White House called out six GOP members of Congress who publicly denounced the student loan forgiveness plan as unfair by showing how much each of them received in federal Paycheck Protection Loans, forgivable loans that were given to struggling businesses at the start of the pandemic to help keep people employed.

The six lawmakers the White House targeted are among the president’s most vocal critics: Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia; Reps. Vern Buchanan and Matt Gaetz of Florida; Reps. Markwayne Mullin and Kevin Hern of Oklahoma, and Rep. Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania.

Combined, the six members of Congress had more than $6.4 million in PPP loans forgiven by the federal government, according to the White House.

Fulfilling a campaign promise, Biden is erasing $10,000 in federal student loan debt for those with incomes below $125,000 a year, or households that earn less than $250,000. He’s canceling an additional $10,000 for those who received federal Pell Grants to attend college.

Biden’s plan makes 43 million borrowers eligible for some debt forgiveness, with 20 million who could get their debt erased entirely, according to the administration. About 60% of borrowers are recipients of federal Pell Grants, which are reserved for undergraduates with the most significant financial need, meaning more than half can get $20,000 in relief.

Republicans quickly denounced the plan as an insult to Americans who have repaid their debt and to those who didn’t attend college. And critics across the political spectrum have questioned whether Biden has authority for the move; legal challenges are virtually certain.

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GOP strategists also countered that unlike student loans, PPP loans were never meant to be paid back if recipients met the terms of the loan. They also argued that PPP loans were approved by Congress, unlike the executive action Biden took this week on student loan forgiveness.

The cancellation applies to federal student loans used to attend undergraduate and graduate school, along with Parent Plus loans. Current college students qualify if their loans were issued before July 1. For dependent students, their parents’ household income must be below $250,000.

Biden also extended a pause on federal student loan payments for what he called the "final time." The pause is now set to run through the end of the year, with repayments to restart in January.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.