Biden touts latest salvo in student loans battle during Wisconsin speech

President Joe Biden gave a much-anticipated speech on student loans on Monday, promising tens of millions of people he would reduce or eliminate their student debt balances.

“While a college degree still is a ticket to the middle class, that ticket is becoming much too expensive,” Biden said at a technical college in Madison, Wisconsin. “In fact, things are a lot different from when college tuition was more affordable and borrowing for college — repaying those loans was more reasonable.”

President Joe Biden arrives at Dane County Regional Airport for an event on student loan debt at Madison College on Monday, April 8, 2024, in Madison, Wisconsin. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

To that end, Biden announced a plan that would eliminate student debt for 4 million people, eliminate accrued interest for 23 million more, and write off $5,000 or more of debt for an additional 10 million.

“Because of our reforms, 25,000 people a month nationwide have been receiving letters from me about the debt they had for all those years,” Biden said. “It’s finally going to be forgiven.”

The president has been trying to make good on a 2020 campaign pledge to cancel at least some federal student loans, working repeatedly and consistently against the wishes of Congress and the Supreme Court.

Congress voted in 2023 to overturn his original $400 billion student loan plan. Biden then vetoed that, only to see the Supreme Court rule his plan illegal.

“Tens of millions of people’s debt was literally about to get canceled, then some of my Republican friends and elected officials and special interests sued us, and the Supreme Court blocked us,” Biden said to boos from the crowd. “But that didn’t stop us.”

He has since canceled $144 billion in student loans for 4 million borrowers using a different legal theory and rolled out a plan to reduce future repayments that the Penn Wharton Budget Model estimates could cost taxpayers another $475 billion over 10 years.

The student loans push has infuriated Republicans who claim Biden’s moves are illegal and ill-designed, as any unpaid amounts are added to the public debt.

“The Biden administration is lawlessly ignoring the Supreme Court and Congress by launching another massive student loan bailout program,” Job Creators Network Foundation President Elaine Parker said in a statement obtained by the Washington Examiner. “The Supreme Court ruled last year that mass student loan cancellation is unconstitutional, but Biden has made it clear that he won’t respect this decision. He is acting as a king, not a president.”

Parker said Biden is not holding colleges accountable for overcharging students and that his plans amount to “nothing more than a vote-buying exercise heading into election season.” Republican attorneys general have already vowed to take action if they think the president has overstepped his authority.

The president’s latest plan is designed to be somewhat more narrowly tailored than the original, focused on five groups of borrowers. However, the White House said those groups combined represent more than 70% of people with federal student debt.

Biden said the plans would help younger people with loans move on to larger goals, such as buying homes, starting businesses, or forming families.

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“It helps women and minority-owned businesses right here in Wisconsin,” Biden said. “That’s what this is all about. I think we all in this room share one goal — give everybody a fair shot. Just a shot.”

Biden gave the speech rather than watching a solar eclipse that fanned across the country on Monday afternoon, with press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre explaining that the eclipse wouldn’t “stop the president from traveling, going to the American people, and talking about a plan that he promised that he would deliver on.”

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