The Jolt: Democrats cheer Biden’s student loan relief, Warnock wants more

News and analysis from the politics team at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Bob Andres

Credit: Bob Andres

Shortly after President Joe Biden announced his plan to wipe out between $10,000 and $20,000 of federal student debt for borrowers Wednesday, Stacey Abrams stood before a group of supporters in Camilla to connect the policy to her campaign for governor.

Speaking to supporters in the swampy southwest Georgia heat, Abrams noted that some critics were “a little unhappy” at the president’s plan.

“And for everyone of those who are complaining, where were you when Brian Kemp gave a tax cut to billionaires and millionaires?” Abrams said, her voice rising. “If they can have $10,000, so can our young people trying to get on their feet.”

So began the Georgia Democratic victory lap for Biden’s long-awaited plan.

U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, who repeatedly appealed to Biden and White House officials to forgive a “meaningful” amount of student debt, also trumpeted the policy, but added that he’s pushing for more.

“This is only a first step for the countless Georgia borrowers who will still be burdened by crushing debt tomorrow, and the day after that. So I’m going to keep fighting for additional student relief,” he said.

Democrats are far from united over the plan. Some say it didn’t go far enough. Others see it as unfair to those who paid off their loans or didn’t incur significant debt. Republicans argue it will fail to curb rising higher education costs.

Senate candidate Herschel Walker hit multiple points in a statement late Wednesday, asking what the plan meant for those who worked or dipped deep into their life savings to pay their college bills.

“We should absolutely work to make college more affordable but Warnock’s plan does nothing to do that. Instead, he wants to raise taxes on hard-working Georgians and push inflation even higher than he already has.”

Biden’s move doesn’t raise taxes right now but likely adds to the federal debt, which will theoretically have to be paid back at some point. Both parties have long passed laws adding to the debt without raising taxes to pay for their spending.

Rich McCormick, the GOP nominee in Georgia’s 6th District, said in a statement that students who want the government to pay for their college education need to sign up for the military like he did.

U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams said she will keep working to pass her Clean Slate Act, a bill that would remove student loan repayment defaults from a person’s credit history.

And she also indicated she would be in favor of more extensions on the repayment moratorium; Biden’s plan calls for payments to resume in 2023.


DA vs. Kemp, Round 5. A Fulton County judge today will hear arguments about whether Gov. Brian Kemp should be compelled to testify before the special purpose grand jury examining potential criminal interference in Georgia’s 2020 elections, the AJC’s Tamar Hallerman reports this morning.

It’s the latest in the escalating back-and-forth between Kemp and Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’ office. More:

Kemp is seeking to quash the subpoena, which was issued after plans for a voluntary interview with Fulton prosecutors were scuttled after an apparent communication breakdown.

The Republican's office is citing sovereign immunity, executive and attorney-client privilege and proximity to the November elections as reasons why the governor shouldn't have to testify before the 23-person grand jury.

Short of that, the motion asks Fulton Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney to delay Kemp's testimony until after the elections and establish guardrails for the types of questions that are on and off-limits.

- The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The DA’s office is arguing that Kemp is “uniquely knowledgeable” about the events following the 2020 elections and should be compelled to testify on the county’s timeline.


ABRAMS FINANCES. How did Stacey Abrams go from struggling to pay her taxes to a net worth of $3 million in less than four years? Our AJC colleagues Chris Joyner and Shannon McCaffrey have an in-depth report that answers that question.

The Yale Law grad managed to parlay her high-profile loss into lucrative book deals, a speaking tour, and business and investment opportunities.

“Nothing has been as good for Stacey Abrams’ bottom line as her narrow loss to Brian Kemp in the 2018 gubernatorial election,” McCaffrey and Joyner write.

But her unwillingness to provide the AJC with more details on several topics for the piece provoked a sharp backlash from Republicans.

“Stacey Abrams claims to be transparent but after these damning reports, we know that claim doesn’t apply to her personal business dealings,” said Georgia GOP spokeswoman Danielle Repass.


ABRAMS ON AIR. Stacey Abrams will launch two economic-focused TV and digital ads Wednesday.

The Atlanta-area ad features former state House minority leader DuBose Porter, who has been a friend and mentor to Abrams since her time in the House.

Porter recounts a moment in 2011 when Abrams helped torpedo a Republican tax measure during a House committee meeting.

The AJC reporting from the time describes a “clunky but effective coalition of Democrats, tea partyers, and Baptists” that joined together to spike the bill, sparked by Abrams’ action to prove the tax “cut” would actually hike taxes on most Georgians.

The second ad will run in the Columbus-area and details Abrams’ plans to use the state surplus for stimulus checks for the middle class, and education, job training, affordable housing, and small business programs.

Along with pushing the Democrat’s messages on the economy, the ads show how a campaign, flush with cash, can micro-target messages with stand-alone TV spots, which will be just two of dozens and dozens from Abrams when it’s all said and done.


RENTER RELIEF. U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock famously filmed his first 2020 campaign ad at Kayton Homes, the Savannah public housing project where he grew up as one of 12 children.

Now elected, the senator was back in Savannah Wednesday about a mile from Kayton Homes to unveil legislation to make housing more affordable.

One bill would create a tax credit for people who pay more than 30% of their income in rent. The second would create tax-free savings accounts that can be used as a down payment to purchase a home, similar to the accounts used for education costs. And the third would require the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to collect more data on affordable housing.

“Put together, these bills will help address the widening homeownership gap and provide all Georgians the opportunity to build generational wealth,” Warnock said.


SATCHER HONOR. Dr. David Stacher is both the past U.S. Surgeon General and past president of Morehouse School of Medicine. And he may be one of the few people who could get U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff, two members of Congress, and the presidents of Morehouse College, Spelman College, Morehouse School of Medicine, Clark Atlanta, Morris Brown College, and the HBCU Consortium all together at the same time.

The group of powerhouse educators and lawmakers came out earlier this week to mark the creation of the Dr. David Satcher Cybersecurity Education Grant Program, a new federal cybersecurity grant program initiated by Ossoff and U.S. Reps. Lucy McBath and Hank Johnson, and included in the CHIP’s bill that passed Congress last month.

At least 50% of the funds in the future program will go to HBCU’s and minority-serving institutions, a move Ossoff said will further diversity the nation’s cybersecurity infrastructure and workforce.

Although Dr. Satcher was not at the event, his son, Daraka, spoke for the Satcher family. And he noted that he’s known Ossoff since the senator was a student at Georgetown, working in Rep. Johnson’s congressional office, where Satcher served as chief of staff.

“I think Congressman Johnson and I both knew that he was going to be great, but we probably did not know if he was going to be a US senator at age 33,” Satcher joked. “But when you see greatness, you recognize it and it’s your responsibility to try to cultivate it.”


GREENE SWATTED. After news broke that U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene was swatted at her home in Rome earlier this week, we heard from multiple readers who were unaware of what “swatting” means.

Swatting occurs when someone places a fake call to 911 or other emergency services with hopes of sending a huge law enforcement presence -- like a SWAT team -- to confront an unsuspecting person, usually at their residence. It’s potentially dangerous and definitely illegal.

The Rome News-Tribune reported that police were called to Greene’s house by someone who reported that a man had been shot inside. But Greene, who was home at the time, assured the officer who arrived that nothing was wrong. Luckily, no one was hurt.

The Rome Police and U.S. Capitol Police Department are investigating the incident.


A DAY FOR DEAL. Gov. Nathan Deal and the Deal family announced Wednesday that they will host a “Celebration of Life” for former First Lady Sandra Deal, who died earlier this week after a battle with breast cancer.

The event is scheduled to begin at 2:00 this Saturday, Aug. 27, at Lanier Tech in Gainesville. The announcement notes, “All are welcome.”


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