President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris toured swing states Monday to tout $146 billion in recent student loan forgiveness while dangling plans to write off up to another half-trillion in outstanding college debt — which Republicans slammed as “buying votes.”

Biden and Harris made stops in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, respectively, to coincide with the announcement of their latest plan to administratively cancel up to $20,000 in accrued interest for more than 25 million debtors who went to college.

The new proposal could rival in scale Biden’s unsuccessful student debt forgiveness fiat that the Supreme Court struck down last year, which would have written off for about 40 million borrowers up to $10,000 in debt apiece, or twice that amount for lower-income students.

The new sprawling debt elimination, including four smaller proposals pushing recipients past 30 million, should take effect “early this fall” — just before Biden’s November rematch against former President Donald Trump — a Biden aide told reporters, though the plan in fact could be slowed by lawsuits.

“Starting this fall we plan to deliver up to $20,000 in interest relief for over 20 million borrowers and full forgiveness for millions more,” Biden, 81, said during his remarks in Madison, Wis.

Those eligible for up to $20,000 in write-offs would have to owe more than they originally borrowed to attend college.

Biden announced his prior unsuccessful blanket debt reduction about two months before the 2022 midterm elections in response to a pressure campaign from activists, despite prominent Democrats — including then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — saying he lacked the legal authority to do so.

‘THIRD-WORLD POLITICS’

Republicans took note of the new timetable and accused Biden of trying to overtake Trump by opening up the Treasury without congressional authorization.

“87% of Americans don’t have student loans. The Supreme Court rejected President Biden’s last student loan forgiveness scheme. Now Joe is trying a new runaround,” tweeted Rep. Alex Mooney (R-WV).”Buying votes always seems to come at a great cost to the responsible US taxpayer.”

Virginia Republican Senate candidate Hung Cao wrote: “It’s not complicated. Biden is buying votes, and we the American taxpayers are footing the bill. The Supreme Court said it’s illegal, but Biden doesn’t care. Third-world politics.”

The $146 billion in debt that Biden administration officials already authorized for forgiveness following last year’s Supreme Court defeat largely came through authority granted in dated but poorly implemented bipartisan legislation, including for people who work in public service jobs.

Biden said Monday that “I’ve freed millions of Americans from this crushing debt, of student debt, and that means they can finally get on with their lives.”

“The ability for working and middle-class folks to repay their student loans has become so burdensome that a lot can’t repay it for even decades after being in school,” he claimed.

If re-elected, Biden added, he would again ask Congress to make community college free for students, which the president said could cut higher education costs in half.

Republicans generally argue that colleges can and should do more to constrain the dramatic increase in costs in recent decades — pointing to lavish spending such as Biden receiving nearly $1 million in income from the University of Pennsylvania across 2017 and 2018 for a professorship that featured just nine known visits to campus.

Biden acknowledged in Wisconsin that he’s heard pushback from people without college degrees against federal loan forgiveness.

“People say to me, ‘It’s great you’re helping people into college, but how about all the hardworking people who grew up and had no opportunity to go to college?’” Biden said.

“I get it, that’s the neighborhood I come from. That’s why a big part of my economic agenda is investing in all Americans whether they attended college or not.”

Biden specifically cited $200 million in grants for registered apprenticeship programs.

The White House said the proposed new student loan relief of up to $20,000 per borrower would cancel debt for 4 million borrowers and give more than 10 million people at least $5,000 in debt relief.

The Biden administration unveiled four smaller college debt proposals Monday, including a change that would allow the federal government to automatically cancel debt under public service and income-based repayment plans, rather than require enrollment.

Other new programs would wipe the balances of 2.5 million borrowers in repayment for 20 years for undergraduate degrees and 25 years for graduate degrees and let authorities cancel the federal balances of students who enrolled in “low-financial-value programs.”

The final new policy would allow loan cancelation to “millions of borrowers who experience hardship,” the White House said, “such as borrowers who are at high risk of defaulting on their student loans… or families who are burdened with other expenses like medical debt or child care.”

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said, “Thanks to our unapologetic commitment to provide relief to as many borrowers as possible as quickly as possible, our regulatory efforts would help tens of millions more borrowers find financial breathing room — and help fix our country’s broken higher education system.”

Cardona traveled Monday to New York City for an event with student borrowers who have benefited from the Biden administration’s debt relief programs, including the income-driven repayment plan and the Saving on a Valuable Education plan.

Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee ranking member Bill Cassidy (R-La.) slammed the White House student loan relief as an election-year “ploy.”

“These loan schemes do not forgive debt. They transfer the debt from those who willingly took it on to the 87[%] of Americans who decided to not go to college or already worked to pay off their loans,” Cassidy said in a statement.

“This is an unfair ploy to buy votes before an election and does absolutely nothing to address the high cost of education that puts young people right back into debt.” 

Cassidy has harshly criticized the Biden administration for its revamped student debt cancellation plan, citing a Penn Wharton Budget Model report last year that estimated the cost to taxpayers could be as much as $559 billion over the next decade.

“Here we go again,” House Education and Workforce Committee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) said in a statement.

 “President Biden continues to break the law in his quest to make college ‘free.’ The problem is these so-called solutions to the student loan system outlined in the President’s plans forces taxpayers — many of whom never stepped foot on a college campus — to pay for loans others willingly took out and benefited from. Mr. President, this is not monopoly money. Students, families, and taxpayers deserve real solutions to lower the cost of college and fix the federal student loan program.”

Under the administration’s income-driven repayment program, a majority of student borrowers with bachelor’s degrees will not have to pay back the principal on their loans, a report from the Urban Institute showed last year.

Cassidy also pointed out that the focus on student debt cancellation has papered over the “botched” rollout of the latest Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which has made it difficult for 18 million applicants to find “crucial financial information” for colleges in a timely manner.

“The Department of Education’s implementation of FAFSA is in shambles after repeated blunders by the administration,” Cassidy added.

“It seems the reason students don’t know what schools they can afford this year is because Biden’s Department of Education is spending its time concocting student loan schemes instead of fixing the mistakes they’ve already made on FAFSA.”    

At least $39 billion were forgiven through income-driven repayment plans, $9 billion through a plan for public service workers and those with disabilities and $5 billion through existing federal loan programs.

Some of those plans have already met legal challenges from Republican-led states. The new cancellation push will likely meet similar opposition and take months to finalize, postponing much of the proposed relief until later this year.

The Supreme Court in June 2023 struck down the Biden administration’s attempt to forgive $430 billion in student loans for 43 million borrowers under a 2003 law meant to provide financial relief to veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

That plan would have provided up to $20,000 in relief per student borrower, who were entitled to the debt cancellation due to the economic strain caused by the national emergency of the COVID-19 pandemic, the administration argued.

Since then, the Education Department has introduced proposals to waive student debt through another law, the Higher Education Act of 1965, and to make good on Biden’s 2020 campaign promise to cancel the federally held loans.

The new proposal would allow students with loan amounts higher than what they borrowed to have up to $20,000 of their interest forgiven, and individuals making less than $120,000 and families making less than $240,000 would have almost all of their interest waived.

During a Monday roundtable at William Cramp Elementary School in Philadelphia, Harris said “those loans will be completely forgiven regardless of your income and even if you did not graduate.”

“The president and I continue to do and will do much more to build on this work,” she added. 

Rep. Dwight Evans (D-Pa.), who was also in attendance and whose district includes West and North Philadelphia as well as portions of Center City, praised Harris for having “shown the type of leadership that we need today” — before pivoting to criticize the Supreme Court’s decision last year. 

“You, nor the president, do not let the Supreme Court get in the way when you think there needs to be something done right for workers and middle class people,” Evans said. 

A shocking Wall Street Journal poll last week found the president trailing former President Donald Trump in Arizona and Pennsylvania as well as Michigan, Georgia, North Carolina and Nevada.

Biden and Trump were tied in a head-to-head matchup in Wisconsin, the survey also found.

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