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Bernie Sanders at a 'Cancel Student Debt' rally

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) joins student debtors to call on President Joe Biden to cancel student debt at an early morning action outside the White House on April 27, 2022 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Paul Morigi/Getty Images for We The 45 Million)

Sanders Says GOP Plot to Tank Student Debt Relief Will 'Hurt Them Politically'

"I have the radical idea that good policy is good politics," said Sen. Bernie Sanders. "And it is good policy to cancel student debt in this country."

Jake Johnson

Sen. Bernie Sanders argued late Tuesday that the Republican Party's efforts—in concert with dark money groups—to block the Biden administration's student debt cancellation plan in the courts "will hurt them politically" as the November midterms approach.

"If you do what the people want, and not what the corporate world wants or billionaire campaign contributors want, you win elections."

"I have the radical idea that good policy is good politics. And it is good policy to cancel student debt in this country," Sanders (I-Vt.), the chair of the Senate Budget Committee and a longtime proponent of total student debt forgiveness, said in an appearance on MSNBC.

"What Biden did is the right thing—I would have gone further," the senator said of the president's proposed $10,000 in debt cancellation for borrowers with federal student loans and up to $20,000 for those with Pell Grants. "It's what the people want. I'm not going to tell you it's 100% popular. But it is what the people want. And you know what? If you do what the people want, and not what the corporate world wants or billionaire campaign contributors want, you win elections."

Asked specifically about Sen. Ted Cruz's (R-Texas) recent announcement that he's been speaking with litigators to devise a legal case against Biden's student debt cancellation plan—which relies on emergency authorities established by the 2003 HEROES Act—Sanders replied that a "strong majority of the American people think we should cancel student debt."

"If Senator Cruz and others want to challenge that," he added, "I think that's gonna hurt them politically."


Sanders' comments came as GOP lawmakers and right-wing advocacy groups continued to seek out plaintiffs with standing to challenge student debt relief in court, with the ultimate goal of getting the case before the conservative-dominated U.S. Supreme Court.

Cruz said earlier this month that one Supreme Court litigator told him student loan servicers are best-positioned to claim harm from the Biden administration's plan, which appears to have helped boost the president's popularity among young voters.

Republican lawmakers have also seized on Biden's recent remark that "the pandemic is over" to attack his administration's legal case for student debt forgiveness.

As the Wall Street Journal noted Tuesday, "Would-be plaintiffs can't take action until the administration makes a formal move toward cancellation, such as releasing an application for loan forgiveness or wiping out the balances of a first batch of borrowers."

The Education Department has said it expects to release applications by early October.

In his MSNBC appearance Tuesday, Sanders argued that while Biden's student debt forgiveness plan is a positive step, the White House and congressional Democrats must stress that it's just part of a broader working-class agenda that includes Medicare expansion, a minimum wage increase, and other popular policies if they're to be successful in upcoming elections.

"If Democrats are going to do well in 2022, in my view, they've got to stand up very firmly for working families, make it clear that we are seeing unprecedented levels of corporate greed, unprecedented levels of concentration of ownership in this country, all the while working families are struggling and in many instances seeing a decline in their standard of living," said Sanders.

"Now is the time, if you want to win an election, to say you know what? I'm on the side of the vast majority of Americans, Black, white, and Latino. I'm prepared to take on greedy powerful corporate interests who are enjoying record-breaking profits while you Americans can't afford healthcare, can't afford to send your kids to college, and are working for starvation wages," the senator continued. "That, to my mind, is how you go forward and win."

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