Republicans Are Panicking Over the Prospect of Biden Forgiving Student Debt

jd-vance-student-loan-dept-gop-reax.jpg Senate 2022-Ohio-Vance - Credit: Jeff Dean/AP
jd-vance-student-loan-dept-gop-reax.jpg Senate 2022-Ohio-Vance - Credit: Jeff Dean/AP

President Biden has been flirting with the idea of some kind of student debt relief for years. But yesterday, in a closed-doors meeting with Democrats, he gave some indication that real, widespread forgiveness is a real possibility.

The Washington Post reports that this likely won’t take the form of a complete cancellation of federal student debt. Instead, Biden and lawmakers discussed plans which usually hovered around the $10,000 figure for immediate forgiveness, although he did make a winking reference to pushing the repayment deadline down the road indefinitely, reportedly telling California Rep. Tony Cárdenas that he had “extended it every time,” with a smile.

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Despite the lack of a concrete proposal and the inevitably tepid nature of whatever Biden’s plan turns out to be, the GOP is going absolutely nuts about this, unleashing a flurry of tweets and statements about how they oppose student debt relief (an overwhelmingly popular policy, per recent polling).

The arguments come from two equally stupid and contradictory positions. One, represented by far right “populists” like J.D. Vance, is that forgiving student loans is a massive giveaway to the rich and college-educated elites (like, for instance, venture capitalist and Yale grad J.D. Vance).

The other, represented by centrist GOP dinosaurs like Mitt Romney, is that forgiving student loans is dangerous because it might inspire people to force the rich to pay for other things, like different kinds of debt forgiveness. Would forgiving student loans be good or bad for the rich? Republicans can’t decide, only that they don’t like it and it should definitely stop.

There’s also Jim Jordan, who just said it was dumb.

Forgiving student loans would help a massive amount of Americans — 43 million, per the Department of Education — in an immediate and tangible way. It’s no secret that the Biden administration is searching for some kind of tentpole achievement they can give midterm candidates, and likely Biden himself in 2024, to run on, and so it’s no wonder so many Republicans are opposed to him canceling debt. As it stands now, the GOP is sitting in an incredibly good place for both election cycles, as their minority factions in both the House and Senate (the latter in particular) have been incredibly effective at blocking, gutting, or co-opting nearly every major piece of legislation the Biden administration has pushed for. Biden, meanwhile, has been more reluctant than his predecessor to rule by executive action, which would be the primary vehicle for delivering student loan relief if he chooses to do so.

And he should: Tuesday’s meeting was with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, whose members pointed out that Latinos in the U.S. are particularly burdened by student debt, with many of them still carrying 80 percent of their balance unpaid after a dozen years, per the Post. Hispanics are also a demographic that the GOP has made marginal gains with, in recent years capitalizing on their general dissatisfaction of Democratic politics. Swift, executive action is one way to win back votes at a time when his party needs them most, but it’s also a risk, as executive orders are prone to legal challenges and political exploitation if, for instance, the presidents party has messaging problems.

We’ll see if the Biden administration has the guts to make a move.

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