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Biden’s Student Loan Forgiveness Plan Divides Democrats


Elected officials were divided this week on President Biden’s announcement of student loan forgiveness, not only along party lines but additionally throughout the Democratic Party.

Mr. Biden’s motion would cancel $10,000 in debt for Americans earning lower than $125,000 per yr and cancel $20,000 for low-income students who received Pell grants. Many Democrats praised the plan as essential relief for borrowers. But some progressives said it didn’t go far enough, and a few centrists and candidates facing difficult re-election campaigns said it was too broad. Republicans appeared to sentence it universally.

Representatives Ayanna S. Pressley and Cori Bush, two members of the progressive group in Congress referred to as the squad, praised the plan. Ms. Bush called Mr. Biden’s measure “an important first step” but advocated cancellation of all student debt on Twitter. Ms. Pressley was more effusive, saying in a press release that Mr. Biden’s motion would “change lives for the higher” and “help hundreds of thousands of individuals to make ends meet, construct generational wealth, grow their families, purchase homes and more.” Each women are running for re-election in safely Democratic districts.

In contrast, Senator Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada, a Democrat who’s in a good race for re-election, said in a press release that she didn’t support Mr. Biden’s decision “since it doesn’t address the basis problems that make college unaffordable.” Ms. Cortez Masto said that loan forgiveness must be more targeted to low-income Americans — a sentiment echoed by Senator Michael Bennet, Democrat of Colorado, in a press release — and that Congress should expand Pell grants.

Representative Tim Ryan, a moderate Democrat who’s running in a difficult race for Senate in Ohio, also criticized the plan, saying in a press release: “As someone who’s paying off my circle of relatives’s student loans, I do know the prices of upper education are too high. And while there’s little question that a school education must be about opening opportunities, waiving debt for those already on a trajectory to financial security sends the incorrect message to the hundreds of thousands of Ohioans with no degree working just as hard to make ends meet.”

Like another Democrats, Mr. Ryan forged the plan as unfair government assistance for higher-income Americans, noting that the $125,000 income cap meant it could forgive loans for some “six-figure earners.”

Despite Mr. Ryan’s statement that he didn’t support the manager motion, his Republican opponent, J.D. Vance, sought to pin it on him, writing on Twitter: “Because of Tim Ryan and Joe Biden, Ohio staff are paying off the loans of Harvard Law students.”

Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican running for re-election in Florida against Representative Val B. Demings, similarly criticized the plan and promoted, instead, laws he has introduced to eliminate interest on federal student loans.

“Forgiving student loan debt isn’t free,” he said in a press release. “It means the 85 percent of Americans with no undergraduate debt from college might be carrying the burden for people who do. That will not be a relief, it’s an unfair burden to position on working families.”

Jonathan Weisman contributed reporting.

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