- AOC called out Biden’s failure to mention student debt during the State of the Union on Tuesday.
- She said it was among the issues important to Democratic constituencies that were “left unsaid.”
- Biden extended the student-loan payment pause through May 1 but hasn’t commented on broad relief.
New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez noticed President Joe Biden didn’t mention the student debt crisis during his State of the Union — and she said it might translate to poor turnout at the polls.
“There are some things that were left unsaid that we are really going to have to work on as a party, in order to really speak to constituencies that have historically supported the president, whose turnout we need, whose support we need right now and in the coming years, that perhaps haven’t heard their issues spoken to in the way that they wanted to hear it,” Ocasio-Cortez told MSNBC Tuesday night.
“Things like student loan debt, the larger themes and crises in education, as well as the piece on immigration was really just glossed over,” she added.
—Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@RepAOC) March 2, 2022
Amid a nearly two year pause on student-loan payments, many Democratic lawmakers and advocates hoped Biden would address the $1.7 trillion student debt crisis impacting 45 million Americans during his national address. But, as Insider reported, student debt was entirely unmentioned, and the president just briefly touched on higher education issues, like increasing the maximum Pell Grant award and supporting free community college.
While Biden recently extended the pause on payments a third time, through May 1, his campaign pledge to cancel student debt broadly remains unfulfilled. Lawmakers like Ocasio-Cortez have consistently warned that failure to deliver on progressive priorities for voters, like student debt relief, could cost Democrats the majority in Congress.
In December, Ocasio-Cortez said it’s “actually delusional” to count on electoral success for Democrats if Biden’s promises remain unfulfilled, and Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley recently told Insider that “student-debt cancellation is one such policy and shouldn’t be a partisan issue.”
“The ultimate persuasion is impact, and Democrats win when we deliver bold, impactful policies that improve the daily lives of our constituents,” Pressley said.
And voters themselves have spoken. A CNBC survey found 57% of Americans want Biden to make student-loan forgiveness a priority, and a recent Data for Progress poll found nearly two-thirds of voters support some or all student debt being canceled.
Still, when asked on the potential for broad student-loan relief, the White House has punted the issue to Congress on multiple occasions, even as debt cancellation advocates like Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren say going the legislative route will take too long.
“If Congress sends him a bill, he’s happy to sign it,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in December. “They haven’t sent him a bill on that yet.”