U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., is once again pairing a prominent Democrat to go to bat for Americans behind on their student loan payments.
In 2018 and again in 2019, Rubio teamed up with U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., to on the “Protecting Job Opportunities for Borrowers (Protecting JOBs) Act” which “would help to ensure borrowers are not inhibited from working in their trained field solely because they fell behind on their federal student loan payments” and “would prevent states from suspending, revoking or denying state professional, teaching, or driver’s licenses solely because a borrower falls behind on their federal student loan payments.”
“It is wrong to threaten a borrower’s livelihood by rescinding a professional license from those who are struggling to repay student loans, and it deprives hardworking Americans of dignified work,” Rubio said. “Our bill fixes this ‘catch-22’ and ensures that borrowers are able to continue to pay off their loans during, or after, the coronavirus forbearance period ends instead of being caught in a modern-day debtors prison.”
“Taking away people’s drivers’ or professional licenses simply because they’re struggling to pay back their student loans is unconscionable,” Warren said. “Even before this pandemic, student loan debt was crushing millions of Americans — and this is why I’m fighting to get immediate relief to students by canceling up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt and why I’m glad to be reintroducing this bipartisan legislation with Senator Rubio to remove senseless roadblocks so that borrowers can build better financial futures.”
On Wednesday, Rubio brought the bill back for a third time.
“Beginning two years after enactment, this legislation would prevent states from suspending, revoking or denying state professional licenses solely because borrowers are behind on their federal student loan payments. The bill achieves this goal by using the same statutory structure that requires certain members of the Armed Forces to receive in-state tuition as a condition of the states’ colleges and universities receiving certain federal funds under the Higher Education Act,” Rubio’s office noted.
The Florida Republican’s office also stressed the bill “prevents states from denying, suspending, or revoking state-issued: driver’s licenses; teaching licenses; professional licenses; or a similar form of licensing to lawful employment in a certain field.” The bill gives states two years to comply and “provides borrowers with legal recourse for non-compliance, by allowing them to file for prospective injunctive relief if a state violates the terms of the act.”
The bill was sent to the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. So far, there is no counterpart over in the U.S. House and Warren is the only co-sponsor. Back in 2019, then U.S. Rep. Donna Shalala, D-Fla., teamed up with U.S. Rep. Mark Walker, R-NC, to bring out the House version of the bill. Shalala was defeated for reelection last year.
Kevin Derby can be reached at Kevin.Derby@floridadaily.com.