The Biden administration swung back Thursday at Republican critics of its recently announced student-loan forgiveness policy — including Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Matt Gaetz of Florida — by highlighting how much they themselves benefited from federal debt cancellation during the pandemic in the form of Paycheck Protection Program loan forgiveness.
The Biden administration announced this week that it would cancel student-loan debt for certain borrowers, a proposal that progressive Democrats — and even the president himself — have long pushed.
The federal government plans to erase $10,000 in debt for borrowers earning up to $125,000, and provide an additional $10,000 in relief to borrowers who received a Pell grant when they went to college.
The administration also announced it would extend the pause on student-loan payments, collections and interest through Dec. 31. The freeze was scheduled to expire Aug. 31.
The White House said this move would cancel the debt of roughly 20 million borrowers, and that nearly 90% of the relief would go to households earning less than $75,000 a year. No household in the top 5% of incomes would receive relief.
Republicans have appeared on cable news networks to criticize the move for various reasons.
Common criticisms in the past of such a broad forgiveness policy include concerns that it could be inflationary, that it could benefit the rich more than the poor, or that it could create moral hazard, with students taking out bigger loans in the future in hopes of another debt jubilee.
The White House on Thursday evening suggested that many of its critics had little standing to oppose loan cancellation because, in fact, they were the beneficiaries of a similar but separate kind of debt forgiveness.
In a series of tweets
posted from the White House’s official Twitter account, staff highlighted Republican members of Congress who had taken out PPP loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration during the pandemic, only to have those loans forgiven later:
The progressive think tank Center for American Progress also tweeted out a condensed list of Republican PPP beneficiaries, though with slightly different dollar amounts:
Some Republicans hit back at the Biden administration’s attempt to compare student-loan forgiveness to PPP loan forgiveness. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who co-authored the PPP legislation, wrote in a Fox Business op-ed Friday that the president’s student-debt plan “could not be more different.”
“With the government forcing companies to close their doors, tens of millions of Americans were headed to the unemployment line, and millions of small businesses were headed for bankruptcy,” he wrote. “Unlike my payroll grants, forgiving student loan debt won’t create jobs, save small businesses, or reopen the American economy.”
Rep. Markwayne Mullin, an Oklahoma Republican mentioned in the White House’s Twitter thread, called it an “ignorant attack,” adding, “74 days before midterms, Joe Biden is targeting business owners for protecting their employees from government lockdowns.”
To be sure, not all Democrats agreed with the Biden administration’s move to cancel student-loan debt. Three Democrats in competitive Senate raises voiced their objection to the policy.
Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado said he favored an approach that wasn’t as sweeping.
“In my view, the administration should have further targeted the relief, and proposed a way to pay for this plan,” Bennet said in a Wednesday statement.
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