While Sen. Maggie Hassan is standing by President Joe Biden’s college debt bailout plan, Rep. Chris Pappas is taking a pass. The two-term congressman has been a loyal Biden supporter, including a vote for the original $5 trillion “Build Back Better” reconciliation bill. But with an election fast approaching, Pappas is bailing on the president’s student debt proposal.
“This announcement by President Biden is no way to make policy and sidesteps Congress and our oversight and fiscal responsibilities,” Pappas said Wednesday. “Any plan to address student debt should go through the legislative process, and it should be more targeted and paid for so it doesn’t add to the deficit.
“The president’s plan also doesn’t address the underlying issue of the affordability of higher education, and it is clear that the high cost continues to limit opportunities available to students. Ultimately we must ensure everyone has the chance to further their education and gain the knowledge and skills they need to thrive.”
The data website FiveThirtyEight analyzes how often every member of Congress votes with or against the president. As of August 17, Pappas’s “Biden Score” was 100 percent.
That is unlikely to change due to their disagreement on college debt. Biden’s proposal is an executive action and, as Pappas noted, the president is “sidestepping Congress.” It is unlikely Pappas will ever be asked to vote on the policy, though it is also unlikely Biden’s plan will ever be put into place. Like President Barack Obama’s DACA proposal, this debt plan is headed for court where its prospects are viewed as dim.
The Biden administration has released a memo claiming its justification for absorbing $300 billion in college debt comes from a 9/11-era law that allows the education secretary to issue student debt waivers as he “deems necessary in connection with a war or other military operation or national emergency.”
Pappas isn’t the only Democrat with reservations about the proposal. Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) declined to endorse it Wednesday. “The administration should have further targeted the relief, and proposed a way to pay for this plan.”
Embattled incumbent Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) said she “doesn’t agree with the executive action” because it doesn’t address college affordability.
And Democratic economists like Larry Summers have decried Biden’s proposal as “unreasonably generous student loan relief” that would add to inflation.
“Student loan debt relief is spending that raises demand and increases inflation,” Summers tweeted. “It consumes resources that could be better used helping those who did not, for whatever reason, have the chance to attend college. It will also tend to be inflationary by raising tuitions.”
New Hampshire Republicans running in the First Congressional District primary said this was a rare issue on which they agreed with Pappas.
“Joe Biden’s unilateral action today bypassed the people’s representatives in Congress to spend an additional $300 billion dollars of taxpayer money which will exacerbate inflation, incentivize colleges to further raise outrageous tuitions, and make the cost of living higher for all Americans,” said Gail Huff Brown.