House Democrats backing college loan forgiveness owe boatloads in student debt

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House Democrats backing college loan forgiveness owe boatloads in student debt

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Congressional Democrats calling for widespread student loan forgiveness owe major sums in educational debt, according to a Washington Examiner analysis of newly released financial disclosures.

A total of 14 Democratic members of Congress, who are an average of 45 years old and include the likes of “Squad” Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), and Jamaal Bowman (D-NY), reported on 2022 filings holding up to $1.7 million in their own or a family member’s student debt. That these same politicians have also urged President Joe Biden to waive away college loans on the backs of taxpayers presents an apparent conflict of interest, ethics experts and a top Republican lawmaker say.


“This is little different from officials advocating or voting for policies that benefit companies in which they own stock,” Michael Chamberlain, director of the watchdog group Protect the Public’s Trust, told the Washington Examiner. “Some people may even consider it worse, perhaps, because it’s at the direct expense of taxpayers.

“Regardless of the wisdom of the policy, certainly those who could gain personally from it should think about taking a step back from leading on the issue,” he said.

The Supreme Court in June dealt a heavy blow to Biden’s roughly $400 billion federal student loan forgiveness plan of up to $20,000 each for millions of borrowers, ruling that the proposal skirted congressional authority. The president called the judiciary’s decision “a mistake” soon after, and the White House this week launched a new program that allows borrowers to apply for smaller monthly debt payments with the ability to qualify for loan forgiveness after 10 years.

On Wednesday, nearly 90 Democrats joined a letter to Biden asking him to use “additional tools” to “cancel student debt by early 2024.” Should the president do so, 13 signatories or their relatives who in 2022 held loans could reap a windfall.

That includes Ocasio-Cortez, Tlaib, Omar, Bowman, Reps. Grace Meng (D-NY), Jimmy Gomez (D-CA), Nanette Barragán (D-CA), Brendan Boyle (D-PA), Veronica Escobar (D-TX), Nikema Williams (D-GA), Salud Carbajal (D-CA), Jasmine Crockett (D-TX), and Greg Casar (D-TX). Separately, Rep. Jahana Hayes (D-CT) disclosed up to $250,000 in loans through the Education Department and didn’t sign the document.

Meng, who has posted on social media that “in order for our country to thrive, we must #cancelstudentdebt,” reported on her 2022 disclosure that her spouse owes up to $250,000 through Navient. While Navient and other top servicers also handle private loans, leading debt industry experts have said while speaking on the issue of cancellation policy it’s almost 100% certain reported congressional debt would count federal loans, which include over 90% of all educational loans.

Escobar similarly reported on her latest filing up to $250,000 worth in loans through her spouse and a joint trust, with Williams also listing up to $250,000 in debt. Bowman, who described last year how he “had to take out thousands in student loans” and called on Biden to “cancel student loan debt,” owes $250,000 in student loans, according to his 2022 disclosure.

“Debt doesn’t vanish into thin air like Democrats lead people to believe,” Rep. Virginia Foxx (D-NC), chairwoman of the Education and Workforce Committee, told the Washington Examiner. “Someone always has to pay the bill and, in this case, the American taxpayer is on the hook. That reality doesn’t seem to bother Democrats who have proven time and time again that they’re willing to break the law when it’s beneficial to them.”

Then there’s the other “Squad” members, who have reported student loan debts of up to $200,000 combined. Ocasio-Cortez, for instance, owes up to $50,000.

Tlaib, who said following the Supreme Court’s June decision to block debt cancellation that she will “fight like hell until the American people get the student debt relief they deserve,” disclosed owing up to $100,000 in federal government law school loans. Omar, who purportedly “won’t stop fighting until we have canceled student debt for everyone in America,” reported up to $50,000 in Nelnet debt.

“Historically, when government officials have pushed controversial policies that they stand to financially benefit from, accusations of corruption and requests for investigation typically ensue,” Pete McGinnis, spokesman for the Functional Government Initiative watchdog group, told the Washington Examiner. “This situation appears no different.”

Gomez, Carbajal, and Boyle reported up to $50,000 in debts each in 2022, while Barragán posted up to $15,000 in debt. Crockett and Casar, who are new filers, disclosed up to $100,000 in debt. The loans are a mix of their own or their spouse’s, disclosures show.

“These conflicts of interest inevitably lead Americans to question whether policies are implemented in favor of the public’s benefit or solely for the purpose of personal gain,” said Bronson Winslow, investigative researcher for the conservative advocacy group Restoration of America.

Spokespeople for 12 of the House Democrats did not reply to requests for comment.


“These are actually her husband’s loans,” Meng spokesman Jordan Goldes told the Washington Examiner, not addressing the allegations of a possible conflict of interest.

Sidney Johnson, a spokeswoman for Hayes, said the “congresswoman does not qualify for student loan forgiveness” when similarly asked about her support for the policy.

© 2023 Washington Examiner
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