Jayapal says tuition-free community college ‘probably won’t’ be in spending plan

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) speaks to reporters after a Congressional Progressive Caucus meeting on Friday, October 1, 2021. to discuss the bipartisan infrastructure bill.
Greg Nash

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) expressed doubt on Tuesday that the tuition-free community college proposal previously floated by Democrats to be included in the sweeping social spending plan the party is crafting will be included in the final version.

“There will be something for higher education, but it probably won’t be the free community college,” Jayapal, who chairs Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, the told reporters when discussing ongoing negotiations within the party for the spending plan.

Jayapal’s comments came shortly after CNN reported that President Biden, who has pushed for the measure as a key part of his legislative agenda, told progressives the proposal likely won’t make it into the finalized package.

Biden previously called for two years of tuition-free community college for Americans. First lady Jill Biden, who has been a teacher for decades, has also advocated for the measure in recent months.

While Jayapal told reporters on Tuesday afternoon that “nothing’s done yet,” she added that she thinks the measure “probably has got a tough road ahead.”

Though the congresswoman said progressives have been pushing for the popular proposal to remain in the package, she said it “didn’t necessarily have a full coalition behind it” in the party.

Months back, Jayapal joined Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in introducing a bill that would make college tuition free for Americans from families earning up to $125,000 per year. The bill use a tax on some Wall Street trades to offset the costs of tuition-free community college, and making four-year public colleges tuition-free and debt-free for those students.

“The president again reiterated in the meeting that that’s really the goal he’d like to work to down the road, but it may not be in this bill,” she said.

The uncertainty around the proposal’s fate in the Democrats’ spending plan comes as party leaders have been working to scale back the massive spending bill after a number of moderates voiced concerns about the overall size.

Divisions also remain in the party over whether the package should include proposals like universal pre-K, expansions to Medicare, as well proposed tax hikes on wealthy corporations and individuals to offset the costs of the bill.

Jayapal said progressives are prioritizing fights to protect funding for childcare, paid family leave, home as well as climate, immigration, housing and health care, and Medicare expansions.

But nothing is set in stone as party leadership has set sights on passing the bill in the coming weeks using a process called reconciliation that will allow it to bypass the Senate GOP filibuster.

Though the procedure will allow Democrats to pass the bill in the evenly-split upper chamber without Republican support, the party faces a tall task in keeping different factions unified in order to pass the package with its narrow majorities in Congress.

Tags Bernie Sanders Jill Biden Joe Biden Pramila Jayapal

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