‘Crushing’: Biden unveils student debt plans to woo young voters

‘Crushing’: Biden unveils student debt plans to woo young voters
‘Crushing’: Biden unveils student debt plans to woo young voters

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Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - US President Joe Biden speaks as he announces a new plan for federal student loan relief during a visit to Madison Area Technical College Truax Campus, in Madison, Wisconsin April 8, 2024. — Reuters pic

MADISON, April 9 — US President Joe Biden unveiled fresh plans yesterday to reduce student loan debt for tens of millions of Americans, in bid to win over young voters as he seeks reelection in November.

The conservative-dominated US Supreme Court last year struck down the Democrat’s earlier proposals to cancel several hundred billion dollars of debt.

But Biden said the court — which features three judges appointed by his Republican election rival Donald — would “never stop” his efforts to deal with the issue.

“Today too many Americans, especially young people, are saddled with unsustainable debts in exchange for college degrees,” Biden said in a speech in Madison in the election swing state of Wisconsin.

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“Too many people feel the strain and stress, wondering if they’re going to get married, have their first child, start a family — because even if they get by they still have this crushing, crushing debt.”

The White House said the 81-year-old’s plans — unveiled while much of America was occupied watching the solar eclipse sweeping across North America — would provide debt relief to over 30 million Americans.

The plans would wipe out accrued interest for 23 million borrowers, cancel all student debt for four million others, and give at least US$5,000 in debt relief to over 10 million borrowers.

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Biden now faces a race to get the plans finalised — and past any new legal hurdles — in time for November’s election.

Younger voters helped Biden beat then-president Trump in the 2020 election, and he will need the key demographic on his side to come from behind in the polls this year.

‘Breathing room’

But many young and progressive voters are angered by Biden’s support for Israel’s war in Gaza following the October 7 Hamas attacks, and have concerns about his age.

The White House hopes the student loan plans will help win some over, given how debts of hundreds of thousands of dollars often hang over Americans for decades as they pay for their college educations.

“It means breathing room, it means freedom from feeling like your student loan bills compete with basic needs, like grocery or health care,” Education Secretary Miguel Cardona told reporters.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre added that Biden would “use every tool available” to cancel student debt “no matter how many times Republican elected officials tried to stand in his way.”

The new plans were “entirely consistent” with the court decision last year, which the White House had studied carefully, a senior administration official said.

Biden’s original plan to cancel more than US$400 billion of student debt was struck down by the US Supreme Court in July last year.

The court said Biden had overstepped his powers as president and should have obtained specific authorisation from Congress to launch the programme. Six Republican-led states had sued over the issue.

The Supreme Court has moved sharply to the right with the three judges appointed by Republican Trump while he was president, notably with the 2022 overturning of the federal right to abortion.

Biden has also made abortion a key campaign plank, accusing Trump yesterday of “scrambling” to find a policy that voters liked after the Republican said he would leave it up to states to decide. — AFP

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