Dems get behind plan for debt-free college

Dems get behind plan for debt-free college

Support for debt-free college education is rising among Democrats who believe that reversing spiraling costs would be both good policy and a political winner.

On Wednesday, nine more Democratic senators came out in support of a resolution on the topic that originated with Sens. Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerSenate Democrats should stop playing politics on Kavanaugh Montana GOP Senate hopeful touts Trump's support in new ad Strong job growth drives home choice for voters this election MORE (D-N.Y.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and liberal heroine Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenAvenatti on 2020 campaign: 'The truth is my policy issue' Democrats embracing socialism is dangerous for America Lawrence O'Donnell: Secret Service could ‘physically remove’ Trump from White House when he loses in 2020 MORE (D-Mass.).

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The resolution deals in broad strokes rather than granular details. It calls upon the federal government to provide more support to states, which can then “make increased investments in higher education that will result in lower tuition and costs for students.” It also backs increased financial aid for students — in contrast to the House GOP’s recent budget plan that would freeze Pell grants at their current level — as well as efforts to bend the cost curve of college education downward.

The nine Democrats who announced their support for the measure Wednesday are Sens. Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Barbara BoxerBarbara Levy BoxerKamala Harris on 2020 presidential bid: ‘I’m not ruling it out’ The ‘bang for the buck’ theory fueling Trump’s infrastructure plan Kamala Harris endorses Gavin Newsom for California governor MORE (Calif.), Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenDem senator who replaced Franken on his future in Minnesota: 'It's complicated' Gillibrand: If George Soros is mad I stood up for women ‘that’s on him’ Franken: I miss being a senator, haven't ruled out running for office again MORE (Minn.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandDemocrats embracing socialism is dangerous for America Border patrol chief: Calls to abolish ICE impact the morale of my team Kamala Harris tied with Bernie Sanders as betting favorite for 2020 Dems MORE (N.Y.), Mazie HironoMazie Keiko HironoThe Hill's Morning Report — Trump heads to New York to shore-up GOP districts They knew it would cause lasting harm, and still took children from parents Dem strategist: It's 'far-left thinking' to call for Nielsen's resignation MORE (Hawaii), Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyMake the moon a refueling station — then head to Mars Dems push FEMA on housing help for displaced Puerto Ricans Overnight Energy: Trump moves to roll back Obama auto emissions standards | California vows to sue | Senate Dem looks to block plan in Congress MORE (Mass.), Gary Peters (Mich.), Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenHillicon Valley: Trump officials deliver show of force on election security | Apple hits trillion | How fake Facebook groups manipulated real activists | Senate group seeks new Russia sanctions Senators introduce bill to slap 'crushing' new sanctions on Russia Hillicon Valley: Manafort trial is Mueller's first courtroom test | Dem eyes options for tech crackdown | Activist publishes 11K Wikileaks Twitter messages | Trump, officials huddle on election security | How the 'Abolish ICE' hashtag caught fire MORE (N.H.) and Debbie StabenowDeborah (Debbie) Ann StabenowMichigan county investigating ballot shortage in election Michigan Dems elect state's first all-female statewide ticket for midterms The Hill's Morning Report — Signs of trouble for Republicans in House special election MORE (Mich.).

Their names bring to 20 the total number of Senate Democrats who support the measure, which was introduced only a month ago.

Of the nine newest backers, only Blumenthal is up for reelection in 2016, and he is not expected to face a serious challenge.

Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersOvernight Health Care: States fight Trump on non-ObamaCare plans | Analysis looks into surprise medical bills | Left hits industry group working against single payer Overnight Energy: Trump Cabinet officials head west | Zinke says California fires are not 'a debate about climate change' | Perry tours North Dakota coal mine | EPA chief meets industry leaders in Iowa to discuss ethanol mandate Sen. Sanders blasts Zinke: Wildfires 'have everything to do with climate change' MORE (I-Vt.), a candidate for the Democratic nomination for president, has been a longtime advocate of reducing the costs of college education. Just last week, he introduced his own bill to eliminate tuition fees for four-year degrees at public colleges and universities. 

Under Sanders’s measure, $70 billion per year would be provided to offset costs, two-thirds of which would come from the federal government and one-third from the states. 

Sanders would fund the federal contribution to that $70 billion figure through the creation of a new tax on Wall Street transactions by “investment houses, hedge funds and other speculators.”

In a statement announcing his support of the separate Schatz-Schumer-Warren measure, Franken said, “The burden of student loan debt is a real pocketbook issue for middle-class Americans, and it’s holding back our economy.” 

Schumer, seeking to further the idea that momentum is building behind the issue, said that “when students graduate with loads of debt, the ripple effects are endless. ...When it comes to making college affordable, I’m hopeful that debt-free college is the next big idea.”

Adam Green of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC), one of the liberal groups driving support for the measure, told The Hill that “the beauty of debt-free college is that it is a game-changing policy in millions of people’s lives and it is a tremendous winner for Democrats with voters. Our goal is to have it be a central campaign issue in 2016. When voters go to the polling booth, we want them to be thinking about debt-free college as one of the main things.”

The PCCC also notes that several of the senators declaring their support for debt-free college are allied with Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHillicon Valley: FBI fires Strzok after anti-Trump tweets | Trump signs defense bill with cyber war policy | Google under scrutiny over location data | Sinclair's troubles may just be beginning | Tech to ease health data access | Netflix CFO to step down Signs grow that Mueller is zeroing in on Roger Stone Omarosa claims president called Trump Jr. a 'f--- up' for releasing Trump Tower emails MORE, including Franken, Stabenow and Hirono, all of whom have endorsed her bid for the presidency. 

Earlier this month, Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook seemed to imply Clinton would support the idea of debt-free college, but the front-runner’s own words have been a little more nebulous. 

“We have to deal with the indebtedness — to try to move forward making college as debt-free as possible,” she said in Iowa on May 18.

Several likely Republican candidates have also talked about the issue of student debt, although they have tended to shy away from specific policy proposals. Although, Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioFlorida questions Senate chairman over claim that Russians have ‘penetrated’ election systems A paid leave plan cannot make you choose between kids or retirement New sanctions would hurt Russia — but hurt American industry more MORE (R-Fla.) worked with Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerDustbin 2020: The best Dems who surely won’t get the nomination WikiLeaks says Senate panel requested Assange testimony for Russia probe Democrats find dead man’s signature on petition gathered by GOP volunteers MORE (D-Va.) on a plan that would have simplified the repayment of student loans. The legislation, introduced last year, has not moved forward.