Dems Quiet on Whether Own Student Loan Debt Should be Forgiven

Only 1 of 41 Dems in Congress with student debt said lawmakers should be exempted from loan forgiveness

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Just 1 of the 41 Democratic members of Congress who owe student loan debt said they'd support adding an exemption to student loan forgiveness legislation that would ensure they don't benefit from it.

The Washington Free Beacon asked each of the 41 Democratic offices on Tuesday whether they would support adding an exemption to make members of Congress ineligible from benefiting from taxpayer-funded student debt relief. Only one, Rep. Dan Soto (D., Fla.), said yes.

"Yes, Rep. Soto would be in favor of exempting members of Congress," said Oriana Piña, his communications director.

According to House and Senate financial disclosures, 63 members of Congress have student loan debt totaling between $2.3 and $5.9 million. Of these members, 41 Democrats account for 70 percent of total congressional student debt.

The College for All Act of 2019, introduced by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.), Rep. Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.), and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D., Wash.), is the first legislation proposed that would cancel all student debt regardless of income. A number of the original cosponsors of Sanders's bill have student debt of their own.

Omar, whose debt sits between $15,001 and $50,000, said the bill "will liberate millions of Americans." Representatives Sheila Jackson Lee (D., Texas), Rashida Tlaib (D., Mich.), and Nanette Barragán (D., Calif.), who together owe up to $200,000 in student debt according to financial disclosures, all signed on as supporters of the debt forgiveness bill. None of their offices responded to emailed inquiries.

Rep. Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.), who also has between $15,001 and $50,000 in student loan debt and supports the radical debt cancellation bill, claimed during a press conference on student loan debt last month that "it was literally easier for me to become the youngest woman in American history elected to Congress than it is to pay off my student loan debt."

Other congressional Democrats hold substantially higher amounts of student loan debt, with some surpassing six figures.

Rep. Eric Swalwell (D., Calif.) has between $50,001 and $100,000 in student debt. Representatives Jahana Hayes (D., Conn.) and Cedric Richmond both hold between $115,002 and $300,000 in student debt. None of their offices responded to inquiries.

The new legislation is by far the most radical ever introduced, and the first proposal that would potentially free lawmakers from their debt.

Previous proposals, such as the 2017 version of the College for All Act, did not include student debt cancellation at all, and set an income cap of $125,000 for families seeking tuition-free college, ensuring members of Congress, who make $174,000 annually, would not have been eligible to benefit. A debt relief proposal this year by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) cancels $50,000 of student debt for households making less than $100,000. It allows borrowers with an income between $100,000 and $250,000 to receive some debt relief, meaning members of Congress, who make $174,000 annually, could theoretically benefit.

Opponents of the College for All Act have criticized the bill’s ability to benefit the same high-income earners Sanders so often blames. A previous Washington Free Beacon report found that $250 billion would go to the richest fifth of Americans under Sanders’s plan.

No Republicans, including the 22 congressional Republicans with student debt, are expected to support either the Sanders or Warren proposals.