​​Louisiana lawmakers react to Biden’s student debt cancellation

By: - August 25, 2022 9:52 am

President Joe Biden’s action of canceling student loan debt is drawing praise from Democrats and ire from Republicans, including Louisiana’s delegation in Congress.

Biden announced Wednesday a plan to forgive up to $10,000 in federal student loan debt for most low- and middle-income borrowers and $20,000 in debt for those who received Pell grants.

The forgiveness would apply to borrowers who earn less than $125,000 per year as an individual or $250,000 per household. 

“Our middle class families deserve breathing room,” the president said in a recorded video statement. “It’s the whole reason I ran [for president]. And this plan will give opportunity to millions of families who need it the most.”

Rep. Troy Carter, Louisiana’s only Democrat in Congress, celebrated the announcement as “bringing possibility and new hope” to the roughly 43 million Americans bogged down by federal student debt. 

Republicans saw it differently. In a tweet Wednesday afternoon, Rep. Mike Johnson, R-Louisiana, called Biden’s move an attempt to “buy votes in the light of day.”

The president’s executive order will fulfill a campaign promise and comes just ahead of the congressional midterm elections as the country faces high inflation.

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Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-Louisiana, called it a “spit in the face” to Louisiana families.

“President Biden didn’t ‘forgive student debt,’” Cassidy said in a tweet. “[Biden] chose to shift the burden of the well-off onto the backs of the 87 percent of Americans who chose to not go to college, already paid off their loans, or saved to not take them out in the first place.”

In a similar statement, Sen. John Kennedy, R-Louisiana, derided the action as unfair to other taxpayers. 

“Americans who already paid off their debt, worked through college, went to a trade school, or chose to not go to school will pay off the loans that other people incurred,” Kennedy wrote. “On what planet is that fair?”

Carter pointed out the federal government has repeatedly bailed out corporations, private enterprises, “and even small countries.”  Biden, Carter said, “stood with working Americans and communities of color” by forgiving student loan debt.

While the order offers relief to some lower and middle income Americans, members of Congress on both sides pointed out that it won’t fix the soaring cost of higher education, which remains unaffordable for many Americans. 

Cassidy said it would make inflation worse while doing “nothing to get at the root problem of the high price of education while costing $2,000 per taxpayer.”

“In the long term, we must fix our broken higher education and workforce development system that drives people, especially people of color, into enormous debt for the degrees and education required to be successful in today’s workforce,” Carter said.

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Wesley Muller
Wesley Muller

Wes Muller traces his journalism roots back to 1997 when, at age 13, he built and launched a hyper-local news website for his New Orleans neighborhood. In the years since then, he has freelanced for the Times-Picayune in New Orleans and worked on staff at the Sun Herald in Biloxi, WAFB-9News CBS in Baton Rouge, and the Enterprise-Journal in McComb, Mississippi. He also taught English as an adjunct instructor at Baton Rouge Community College. Among his recognitions are McClatchy's National President's Award, the Associated Press Freedom of Information Award, and the Daniel M. Phillips Freedom of Information Award from the Mississippi Press Association. Muller is an alumnus of Jesuit High School and the University of New Orleans and is a veteran U.S. Army paratrooper. He lives in Louisiana with his wife and two sons.

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