Willie R. Tubbs, FISM News
Any doubts that Democrats fear voter backlash to President Joe Biden’s perceived inaction on student debt should now be quelled. With well-known Democrats and progressive organizations already issuing frequent complaints and members of the left convinced student debt could prove the issue that keeps younger voters home, President Biden now faces a more coherent and cohesive in-party plea for action.
This week, a group comprised of about 10% of the House of Representatives has made public a letter in which 43 Congresspeople (all Democrats) urged Biden to extend the longstanding freeze on federal student loan repayments through 2023.
The freeze, which was originally part of then-President Donald Trump’s response to the pandemic, is currently slated to end on May 1, but the letter’s authors argue that inflation and the ongoing pandemic have not yet abated.
“This is a cost we can eliminate for student borrowers while they deal with so many other rising prices,” Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Pa.), the lead author of the letter, said in a statement. “Inflation won’t be here forever, but while it lasts we can easily afford to suspend student loan payments a little longer.”
Lamb, who is currently running for Senate in Pennsylvania, pointed to a recent study conducted by the Student Debt Crisis Center, a nonprofit whose sole goal is “ending the student debt crisis.” SDCC found that, because of inflation, 92% of borrowers are concerned they will not be able to make payments if the repayment freeze ends in May.
In their letter, the legislators referred to a 2020 study conducted by the Betsy DeVos-led Department of Education that said restarting loan repayments would be a complex matter for borrowers and loan processors, and to a 2021 study from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities that highlighted the ongoing hardship faced by Americans due to COVID-19.
“Millions of borrowers have benefitted from the pause in payments,” the letter reads. “Although progress has been made, we believe it is vital to ensure that we continue to work to alleviate the continued impact the pandemic is having on families across the country.”
Biden did not mention student loan forgiveness in his State of the Union address, which disappointed many on the Left given his spirited endorsement of the idea while on the campaign trail.
In early March, White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain told the left-leaning “Pod Save America” podcast that student loan forgiveness was still a priority, and indicated even then that the freeze was likely to continue.
“The president is going to look at what we should do on student debt before the pause expires, or he’ll extend the pause,” Klain said on the podcast.
Democrats, particularly in Congress, hope the president will use an executive order to wipe out most or all federal student loan debt, an idea at which Biden has bristled as he believes he lacks the authority to forgive debt without the backing of Congress.