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 SchumerConvention shows Democrats support fracking, activists on the fringe Dem ad blasts Indiana senate candidate on Social Security The Trail 2016: Unity at last MORE (D-N.Y.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and liberal heroine Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenWasserman Schultz: 'Sometimes you just have to take one for the team' Chelsea Clinton's big moment Kaine as Clinton's VP pick sells out progressive wing of party 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 BlumenthalRichard BlumenthalDems fear Trump arguments on terrorism Tim Kaine backs call to boost funding for Israeli missile defense Senate Dems push Obama for more Iran transparency MORE (Conn.), Barbara BoxerBarbara BoxerReid faces Sanders supporters' fury at DNC Calif. Dem touts her 'badass' sister's Senate run The Trail 2016: One large crack in the glass ceiling MORE (Calif.), Al FrankenAl FrankenWinners and losers of the Democratic National Convention Party unity overcomes chaos...and the Bernie-or-Bust crowd The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE (Minn.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandMcAuliffe: I wouldn't want a 'caretaker' in Kaine's Senate seat Tim Kaine backs call to boost funding for Israeli missile defense The Trail 2016: The newrevolution begins MORE (N.Y.), Mazie HironoMazie HironoDem senator's name misspelled on convention screen Overnight Finance: Senate sends Puerto Rico bill to Obama | Treasury, lawmakers to meet on tax rules | Obama hits Trump on NAFTA | Fed approves most banks' capital plans Senate Dems pledge to keep fighting over Zika MORE (Hawaii), Ed MarkeyEd MarkeyTim Kaine backs call to boost funding for Israeli missile defense FCC chief pushes phone companies to offer free robocall blocking Markey floats bill bringing internet to developing world MORE (Mass.), Gary Peters (Mich.), Jeanne Shaheen Jeanne ShaheenDemocrats ‘freaked out’ about polls in meeting with Clinton GMO labeling bill advances in the Senate over Dem objections Overnight Defense: US blames ISIS for Turkey attack | Afghan visas in spending bill | Army rolls up its sleeves MORE (N.H.) and Debbie StabenowDebbie StabenowDem sen: Clinton 'focused and prepared to keep us safe' Tim Kaine backs call to boost funding for Israeli missile defense Dems to GOP: Admit Trump is 'unfit' to be president 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 SandersBernie SandersDems rally behind Wasserman Schultz How did Hillary Clinton do? Pundits react to speech Winners and losers of the Democratic National Convention 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 Rodham ClintonTrump: I’ll give M if we meet fundraising goal Dems rally behind Wasserman Schultz How did Hillary Clinton do? Pundits react to speech 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 RubioOvernight Healthcare: Rubio presses Obama to spend Zika money | FDA moves ahead with trans fat ban The Trail 2016: Her big night Dem lawmakers rally Muslims against Trump MORE (R-Fla.) worked with Sen. Mark WarnerMark WarnerTim Kaine backs call to boost funding for Israeli missile defense Democratic National Convention event calendar Liberal group: Kaine could be 'disastrous' VP pick MORE (D-Va.) on a plan that would have simplified the repayment of student loans. The legislation, introduced last year, has not moved forward.