Democrats are using student loan relief as a Hail Mary to save the party from political ruin — but even at the very top, there’s dissension in the ranks over precisely what that should constitute.
According to Politico, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris were set to make a promotional video for social media to announce the latest extension of the federal student loan payment pause.
But shortly after starting the project in early April, Harris backed out because the pause on payments was not the loan forgiveness progressives have been promising and pushing for, two unnamed White House officials disclosed to the news outlet.
Biden’s solo video was posted on April 6 with the message that the pandemic-related moratorium that began in March 2020 would extend through the summer.
“Today, my Administration is extending the pause on federal student loan repayments through August 31st, 2022,” said the tweet summarizing the video.
Today, my Administration is extending the pause on federal student loan repayments through August 31st, 2022. pic.twitter.com/xwicA1hCW3
— President Biden (@POTUS) April 6, 2022
“I know folks were hit hard by this pandemic, and though we’ve come a long way in the last year we’re still recovering from the economic crisis it caused,” Biden said in the recorded statement.
“This continued pause will help Americans breathe a little easier,” he promised.
Harris instead chose to tweet her own statement about the policy in a measure that distanced herself from Biden’s policy.
“@POTUS and I understand that student loan debt adds stress for borrowers and their families,” she tweeted from her official account.
“We’re continuing the pause on federal student loan repayments through August 31, 2022. This pause will help 41 million people keep up with their monthly bills and meet their basic needs,” the vice president said.
.@POTUS and I understand that student loan debt adds stress for borrowers and their families. We’re continuing the pause on federal student loan repayments through August 31, 2022. This pause will help 41 million people keep up with their monthly bills and meet their basic needs.
— Vice President Kamala Harris (@VP) April 6, 2022
Of course, part of the rift on this issue could be explained away by the ongoing tensions between Biden and the vice president that is an open secret in Washington.
However, the broader problem for Biden is that progressives want nothing less than a measure of student loan forgiveness to appease their base, while ordinary Americans instinctively recoil from the idea of giving handouts to relatively well-off college graduates — and even his vice president doesn’t want to be on the wrong side of that fight.
Democrats such as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts have been hammering Biden to erase $50,000 of debt per borrower through presidential fiat.
During the runup to his 2020 presidential nomination, Biden called for canceling at least some portion of student loan debt forgiveness.
“Additionally, we should forgive a minimum of $10,000/person of federal student loans, as proposed by Senator Warren and colleagues,” he tweeted in March 2020.
“Young people and other student debt holders bore the brunt of the last crisis. It shouldn’t happen again,” Biden urged at the time.
Additionally, we should forgive a minimum of $10,000/person of federal student loans, as proposed by Senator Warren and colleagues. Young people and other student debt holders bore the brunt of the last crisis. It shouldn’t happen again.
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) March 22, 2020
Now he’s stuck with a compromise solution that is unpalatable to everyone, including Harris — the next highest-ranking member in his own administration — who appears to be intentionally distancing herself from the coming onslaught from the dissatisfied left.
Unfortunately, this disagreement at the highest levels over what to do for student loan borrowers comes at a time when Biden and the Democrats can’t afford even the slightest political misstep.
The president has overseen an economy rocked by out-of-control inflation and food supply issues; an immigration crisis at the southern border; war in Europe; and plummeting approval numbers for both Biden and Harris.
Perhaps the vice president has a modicum of political savviness after all and realizes it’s a smart move to stay as far away from Biden’s solution as possible to avoid the fallout.
Biden has painted himself into a corner with this issue and his lackluster solution — and Harris clearly wants no part of it.
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