Georgia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams and Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) are pushing the Biden administration to cancel millions of dollars in federal student loan debt to boost their electoral prospects this fall, a Washington Post columnist alleged this week.
James Hohmann made the claim to “The Bulwark Podcast” host Charlie Sykes days after the outlet reported that the president was leaning toward canceling up to $10,000 of debt per borrower. The report caused outrage among Republicans, who have warned that scrapping student debt would amount to a bailout of the upper middle class and transfer the burden onto the less affluent.
“I’ve asked a lot of people in the White House this question, and essentially the answer is that this is the fault of Stacey Abrams and Raphael Warnock,” Hohmann said after Sykes asked how the Biden administration could justify such a radical move.
“Stacey Abrams has been browbeating the White House on this, and says that this is the only way she could win — that this is going to be a base turnout election,” Hohmann said. “This isn’t about persuading people in the middle, it’s about getting the base to turn out.
“And the base isn’t going to turn out if they don’t do this, and that they have all sorts of stats about how a lot of graduates from HBCUs [historically black colleges and universities] have all this debt,” the columnist added. “And so there are a lot of people very close to the president who privately understand that this is a complete disaster for them. But the president is being pulled really hard by these woke leftists who … believe it’s all about the base.”
“They just don’t get it because they haven’t spent time in the WOW counties or in Apple Valley, Minnesota,” Hohmann added, referring to Waukesha, Ozaukee, and Washington counties in Wisconsin — historically famous as key electoral battlegrounds.
Both Abrams and Warnock face tough election fights in November. Abrams is taking on Georgia Republican Gov. Brian Kemp in a rematch of their 2018 contest, while Warnock is seeking a full six-year Senate term in his race against former University of Georgia football star Herschel Walker.
Representatives for Adams and Warnock did not immediately respond to The Post’s requests for comment.
The reported loan cancellation plan would limit forgiveness to Americans who earned less than $150,000 the previous year. Married couples filing jointly would have had to earn less than $300,000 to qualify.
Republicans could challenge any student loan cancellation executive order in court by claiming that only Congress has the authority to authorize forgiveness through its power of the purse. As recently as last summer, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters only Congress could discharge federal student loan debt.
“People think that the president of the United States has the power for debt forgiveness,” Pelosi told reporters at the time. “He does not. He can postpone, he can delay, but he does not have that power. That has to be an act of Congress.”
However, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) have urged the president to cancel student debt up to $50,000 per borrower, though the White House has balked at that amount.
Forgiving $10,000 in student loan debt per borrower could cost the government more than $200 billion, according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.
CRFB president Maya MacGuineas told The Post last week that while the rumored cancellation “would be popular in the short term, especially among those who would receive this unexpected windfall … it’s completely at odds with Biden’s own rhetoric about the importance of deficit reduction.”
“The cost of college is far too high,” she added, “but no serious policymaker would say that student debt cancellation is the right solution.”
While the White House has yet to announce a decision on mass forgiveness of federal loans, this week the administration revealed it would erase $5.8 billion in federal loan debt for 560,000 borrowers who attended for-profit Corinthian Colleges between 1995 and its 2015 collapse amid fraud allegations.