Is the Biden honeymoon already over?

Typically, lawmakers on the left side of the political aisle work in lockstep compared to their opponents on the right.  However, when it comes to the issue of canceling $50,000 of student loan debt, the Democratic Party seems to be at war with itself.

For years, but especially since the coronavirus pandemic, prominent leaders of the Democratic Party have been calling for the cancelation of student loan debt for millions of Americans.

For instance, in May 2020, several Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives issued an edict that all student loan debt should be canceled immediately.  The call to arms was led by Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), who said at the time, "We need across the board student debt cancellation now to provide urgently needed relief for the more than 45 million student loan borrowers and ensure our recovery efforts leave no community behind."

Pressley was joined by Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), who added, "We need to act urgently to provide much needed debt relief for the 45 million Americans shackled by student debt.  Our country is dealing with an unprecedented crisis and we need to provide much needed relief.  Canceling student debt is one of many steps needed for economic recovery." 

In the U.S. Senate, there has also been a steady drumbeat to cancel student loans.  The effort in the upper chamber has been led by Senate now–majority leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).

In September 2020, Schumer and Warren issued a press release titled "The Next President Can and Should Cancel Up To $50,000 In Student Loan Debt Immediately; Democrats Outline Plan for Immediate Action in 2021."

According to Schumer, "[m]assive student loan debt is exacerbating the historic and overlapping crises our country is facing, especially for communities of color, which have been hit hardest by the health and economic consequences of COVID-19.  Our resolution lays out a way for the president to change that.  Canceling student loan debt would help boost our struggling economy and close the racial wealth gap that has persisted for far too long."

Warren added her two cents, saying, "The President of the United States has the power to broadly cancel student loan debt, help close the racial wealth gap, and give a big boost to families and our economy.  It's time to use this existing authority and permanently improve the lives of tens of millions of Americans."

Given their predilection for wiping away more than $1.5 trillion in outstanding student loan debt, one would assume these Democrats were absolutely giddy when Joe Biden entered the Oval Office on January 20.

However, in a plot twist of epic proportions, President Biden has pivoted from his original position of somewhat supporting their dreams of canceling student loan debt to pouring a bucket of cold water all over it.

Biden recently held his first town hall event since becoming president, and he addressed the $1.5-trillion question with an answer that certainly didn't sit well with his fellow Democrats.  When asked if he would support the plan to cancel $50,000 per borrower in student loan debt, Biden responded, "I will not make that happen."

Unsurprisingly, Biden's answer was met with a mighty backlash by many in his own party.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) pounced on Biden's stance, tweeting, "The case against student loan forgiveness is looking shakier by the day. We've got the *Senate Majority Leader* on board to forgive $50k. Biden's holding back, but many of the arguments against it just don't hold water on close inspection. We can and should do it. Keep pushing!"

Schumer and Warren also spoke up, doubling down on their earlier statement, imploring Biden to go big.  "An ocean of student loan debt is holding back 43 million borrowers and disproportionately weighing down Black and Brown Americans.  Cancelling $50,000 in federal student loan debt will help close the racial wealth gap, benefit the 40% of borrowers who do not have a college degree, and help stimulate the economy.  It's time to act.  We will keep fighting," they wrote.

Interestingly, this battle among Democrats over student loan debt is playing out in the wide-open public space, not behind closed doors in smoke-filled rooms.  Intra-party conflicts among Democrats are more rare than authentic Bigfoot sightings.

Perhaps most interesting, though, is that the honeymoon between Biden and congressional Democrats seems to be souring faster than a piece of Lemonhead candy.  At this rate, calls for impeaching Biden because he won't cancel student loan debt could be coming soon.

Chris Talgo (ctalgo@heartland.org) is an editor at The Heartland Institute. 

Image: Pixabay.