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 SchumerFCC advances proposal to unmask blocked caller ID in threat cases Trump: Pelosi's leadership good for the GOP Live coverage: Senate GOP unveils its ObamaCare repeal bill MORE (D-N.Y.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and liberal heroine Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenLive coverage: Senate GOP unveils its ObamaCare repeal bill Overnight Regulation: Labor groups fear rollback of Obama worker protection rule | Trump regs czar advances in Senate | New FCC enforcement chief Budowsky: Dems madder than hell 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 BlumenthalOvernight Regulation: Labor groups fear rollback of Obama worker protection rule | Trump regs czar advances in Senate | New FCC enforcement chief Dems urge Sessions to reject AT&T-Time Warner merger Democrats tout suit on Trump’s foreign business connections MORE (Conn.), Barbara BoxerBarbara BoxerTime is now to address infrastructure needs Tom Steyer testing waters for Calif. gubernatorial bid Another day, another dollar for retirement advice rip-offs MORE (Calif.), Al FrankenAl FrankenCongress poised to prohibit airlines from forcibly removing customers Sen. Franken spotted onstage at Grateful Dead concert Overnight Regulation: Senate Banking panel huddles with regulators on bank relief | FCC proposes 2M fine on robocaller | Yellowstone grizzly loses endangered protection MORE (Minn.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandBipartisan senators seek to boost expertise in military justice system Mattis gaining power in Trump’s Cabinet What do Democrats stand for? MORE (N.Y.), Mazie HironoMazie HironoSenate Dem offers patent reform bill Office of Government Ethics: Bannon’s waiver 'problematic' Twitter mocks GOP for using movie gif to dismiss Comey statement MORE (Hawaii), Ed MarkeyEd MarkeyDem senator: Trump 'doesn't respect' the presidency Overnight Regulation: Labor groups fear rollback of Obama worker protection rule | Trump regs czar advances in Senate | New FCC enforcement chief Dems urge Sessions to reject AT&T-Time Warner merger MORE (Mass.), Gary Peters (Mich.), Jeanne Shaheen Jeanne ShaheenSenate overwhelmingly passes Russia sanctions deal Russia sanctions deal clears key Senate hurdle Overnight Cybersecurity: Sessions denies Russia collusion | First agency gets 'A' grade on IT | Feds out North Korean botnet | Unusual security update for Windows XP MORE (N.H.) and Debbie StabenowDebbie StabenowNo certainty on cost-sharing payments to insurers Dems express concerns about Trump's proposed rural development cuts Trump, Clinton campaign aides launch their own bids 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 SandersHannity starts talking about murdered DNC staffer again Overnight Cybersecurity: Trump tweetstorm on Russia probe | White House reportedly pushing to weaken sanctions bill | Podesta to testify before House Intel Sanders to headline 'Don't Take Our Health Care' bus tour 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 questions special counsel Mueller's objectivity Trump: 'Bothersome' how close Mueller is to Comey House intel panel will interview John Podesta next week: report 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 RubioWill Republicans stand up to the NRA's insurrection rhetoric? The Hill's Whip List: Senate ObamaCare repeal bill Ivanka Trump turns to House GOP on paid family leave MORE (R-Fla.) worked with Sen. Mark WarnerMark WarnerDonna Brazile: Congress has duty to halt Trump on Russia sanctions Lawmakers told of growing cyber threat to election systems DHS official: Russia targeted election-related systems in 21 states MORE (D-Va.) on a plan that would have simplified the repayment of student loans. The legislation, introduced last year, has not moved forward.