Biden’s remarks on student debt in 2021 led White House staff to appease progressives, new book says

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FIRST ON FOX: Statements made by President Biden in Wisconsin last year created a tug of war between moderate and progressive Democrats over student debt cancellation and forced some in the White House to clean up the president’s remarks , according to a forthcoming book by two New York Times reporters.

An excerpt provided to Fox News from Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns’ upcoming book, “This Won’t Pass: Trump, Biden, and the Battle for America’s Future“, describes the difficult response of progressives after Biden made it clear that he was not open to the idea of ​​​​forgiving a large part of student loan debt, especially for those who attended schools in the United States. Ivy League.

President Biden attends a CNN town hall at the Pabst Theater in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on February 16, 2021.
(Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)

Speaking at a Milwaukee town hall in February 2021, Biden rejected an appeal from a member of the public asking his administration to forgive at least $50,000 in student loans to Americans across the country.

“I’m not going to make that happen,” Biden said. “It depends on whether or not you go to a private university or a public university.”

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According to the book, Biden, who told members of the public at town hall that he was not interested in forgiving “the billions of dollars in debt for people who went to Harvard, Yale and Penn,” apparently associated “heavy debts to posh universities”.

Biden’s comments sent his staff, including chief of staff Ron Klain, into a spiral as they tried to alter what the president had said in a bid to appease the progressive wing of the party. This wing had called him to forgive more than the $10,000 he had originally promised, the authors explained.

Despite Biden’s own remarks, Klain, according to the book, spoke privately “with several congressional supporters of debt cancellation to assure them that his boss had no intention of taking such a position. closed”.

“A lawmaker who spoke with Ron Klain recalled him saying kindly that sometimes Biden got a little tangled up in his public statements,” the authors wrote. “When a group of House progressives again raised the subject with Klain in a meeting several weeks later, the trusted aide alluded to Biden’s comments as an error.”

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“We fixed that the next day, didn’t we?” Klain spoke about Biden’s remarks, according to the recollection of a lawmaker who appeared in the book.

It was reported this week that Biden told members of Congress that he was considering options to cancel student loans through executive action.

Earlier this week, Senate Majority Leader chuck schumerDN.Y., has suggested that Biden is getting closer to canceling up to $50,000 in student loan debt for borrowers.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., on Capitol Hill in Washington on June 22, 2021.
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Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., on Capitol Hill in Washington on June 22, 2021.
(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

“I will continue to urge the president to take this important step. And I say to my colleagues, I think the president is moving in our direction,” Schumer said from the Senate. “My discussions with him and his team have been very fruitful lately, and I hope he does the right thing. We are getting closer.”

Speaking about the pause in loan repayments, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday that executive action by the president is on the table.

“He will make a decision before this break is over,” Psaki said. “At the moment it has been extended until August … and it is looking at other options for executive authority.”

Progressives are pushing Biden to write off student loan debt completely by executive order. They say the crippling debt hanging over the heads of many college graduates forces them to put off major life decisions and that student debt disproportionately affects minorities.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki speaks during a press briefing at the White House on March 4, 2022.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki speaks during a press briefing at the White House on March 4, 2022.
(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

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Federal student loan payments were first suspended in response to the economic toll of the COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns in May 2020 under former President Donald Trump. But as the economy emerged from the pandemic, Biden extended that hiatus multiple times after taking office, drawing criticism from Republicans.

The book is due out May 3.

Fox News’ Paul Best and Tyler Olson contributed to this article.

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