Both U.S. Senate candidates from Ohio criticized President Joe Biden for forgiving $300 billion in student loan debt, with Republican JD Vance issuing a particularly scathing rebuke for what he called “an elite giveaway on the backs of American workers.”
“Today, in the midst of a historic inflation crisis, Joe Biden supplied a $300 billion giveaway to college graduates – paid for by single moms in the form of higher food prices, by trade workers in the form of higher taxes, and by the next generation of students in the form of higher tuition,” the attorney, venture capitalist and author said in a statement.
Biden’s order bestows up to $20,000 in debt relief to college graduates who have received Pell Grants and up to $10,000 to those who have not received such grants. In taking this action, he is bypassing Congress and instead relying on authority he says the 2003 HEROES Act affords him. Congressional Republicans argue that the HEROES Act does not authorize the president to undertake such extensive debt cancellation, a view the White House shared as recently as last year.
Opponents of broad-based student-loan forgiveness have observed that the policy contradicts the populist ethos that its advocates attempt to claim insofar as college graduates tend to enjoy more comfortable economic circumstances than non-college graduates. They also have noted that heightened earning opportunities are a major reason many seek higher education in the first place, a point that calls into question why government relief should be targeted at those making a supposedly economically beneficial decision.
Vance’s Democratic opponent, U.S. Representative Tim Ryan (D-OH-13), said he believed many Buckeye Staters who did not receive college diplomas would resent seeing Biden extend a massive handout that excludes them.
“While there’s no doubt that a college education should be about opening opportunities, waiving debt for those already on a trajectory to financial security sends the wrong message to the millions of Ohioans without a degree working just as hard to make ends meet,” the congressman said.
Vance blasted his rival’s statement as too weak.
“I see that Tim Ryan has issued a mealy-mouthed statement on what Biden is doing,” the Republican said. “He should instead offer some leadership, and vote against Joe Biden when it actually counts.”
Other Ohio Democrats are meanwhile praising the administration’s move.
“The president’s plan will ease the burden of student loan debt, particularly felt by low-income and marginalized communities who bear the burden the most,” U.S. Representative Shontel M. Brown (D-OH-11) said in a statement. “Today’s announcement is a step forward in the right direction to address racial and economic injustice, and I hope it helps to create a more fair and equitable country.”
The Cleveland-based congresswoman was among 100 leftist federal lawmakers who authored a letter to the White House last month pushing for significant student debt relief. In her statement this week, she credited the president with aiding 1.8 million Ohioans who carry student loans and owe $62 billion in college debt altogether.
Brown’s Columbus-based colleague Joyce Beatty (D-OH-03) likewise praised the president for his decision.
“By forgiving up to $20,000 in burdensome student loan debt, President Biden is giving working and middle class families the financial breathing room the desperately need,” she tweeted.
A number of congressional Democrats have nonetheless joined Republicans in criticizing Biden’s loan cancellation. Still, it remains to be seen whether opponents will be confident enough to seek a legal challenge. In a Virginia Law Review article published in April, Jack V. Hoover argues that even if the U.S. Supreme Court disagrees with Biden’s contention that he may forgive student debt without congressional authorization, the court might not recognize the standing of anyone, including legislators, to challenge the policy.
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