Comments on Biden’s 2021 student debt led White House officials 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 forgiveness and forced some in the White House to clean up the president’s statements, according to an upcoming book by two New York reporters. York Times.

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

President Biden attends a CNN town hall at the Pabst Theater in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, February 16, 2021.

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

Speaking at a Milwaukee town hall in February 2021, Biden rejected an audience member’s request that his administration 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 city hall audience members he was not interested in forgiving “the billions of dollars in debt to people who went to Harvard, Yale and Penn,” apparently associated “heavy debt with fancy universities.” .

Biden’s comments sent his staff, including Chief of Staff Ron Klain, into a spiral as they tried to alter what the president said in an effort to appease the party’s progressive wing. That ward was asking 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 reassure them that their boss did not intend to take such a firm stand.”

“One lawmaker who spoke with Ron Klain recalled him kindly saying that Biden sometimes gets a little confused in his public statements,” the authors wrote. “When a group of House progressives raised the issue again with Klain in a meeting several weeks later, the trusted aide alluded to Biden’s comments as a mistake.”

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“We fixed it the next day, right?” Klain spoke about Biden’s comments, according to a lawmaker’s recollection that was featured in the book.

It was reported this week that Biden told members of Congress that he is looking at options to forgive student loans through executive action.

Earlier this week, the Senate Majority Leader Chuck SchumerDN.Y., suggested that Biden is moving 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.

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 ask the president to take this important step. And I say to my colleagues, I think the president is moving in our direction,” Schumer said on the Senate floor. “My conversations 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 payments, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday that the president’s executive action is on the table.

“He will make a decision before this break is over,” Psaki said. “It’s currently extended until August … and he’s looking at other options for executive authority.”

Progressives are pushing Biden to completely forgive student loan debt through an executive order. They say the overwhelming debt hanging over the heads of many graduates is forcing them to put off major life decisions and that student debt disproportionately affects minorities.

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

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

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Federal student loan payments were halted for the first time in response to the economic cost 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 pause several times after taking office, drawing criticism from Republicans.

The book is slated to be released on May 3.

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

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