The Jolt: Republicans see cost of canceling student debt as campaign issue

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

The biggest thing happening in Washington on Monday was the Braves visit to the White House. With the Congress out in honor of the Rosh Hashana Jewish holiday, the city and, therefore, the cogs of the federal government, were mostly quiet.

That is why we expect to hear more today and in the coming weeks about the Congressional Budget Office’s estimate of the cost of President Joe Biden’s plan to cancel up to $20,000 in student debt.

The CBO report says the price tag could be $400 billion over the next decade, although Biden’s allies, critics and even the estimators themselves noted the numbers are “highly uncertain.”

Expect Republicans, who from the beginning have been critical of the debt relief initiative, to pounce as they return to Washington.

“Summary: Biden is stealing $400 billion from those without a college degree to pay off the loans of those who do,” U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter of Georgia said in a Twitter post on Monday.

A recent survey shows that voters are split on whether they approve of Biden’s student loan forgiveness. The NBC News poll found that 43% think it’s a good idea, while 44% of voters say it’s bad.

But 78% of Democrats polled backed the initiative. And most elected Democrats have also stood with Biden on the issue.

Most Democrats were mum about the CBO’s estimate. However, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a longtime champion of loan forgiveness, issued a joint statement saying whatever the plans cost it would be worth it in the long run.

“Today’s CBO estimate makes clear that millions of middle-class Americans have more breathing room thanks to President Biden’s historic decision to cancel student debt,” they wrote. “In contrast to President Trump and Republicans who gave giant corporations $2 trillion in tax breaks, President Biden delivered transformative middle-class relief by canceling student debt for working people who need it most — nearly 90% of relief dollars will go to those earning less than $75,000 a year.”

About 1.5 million Georgians are eligible for the program. Nearly 70% of those were Pell Grant recipients who can get up to $20,000 in debt wiped off the books, according to statistics the White House released last week.


Credit: Jenni Girtman / AJC

Credit: Jenni Girtman / AJC

NO EXPANSION. Senate hopeful Herschel Walker on Monday repeated his opposition to expanding Medicaid, a stance that has attracted increased scrutiny since Atlanta Medical Center’s decision to close.

Pressed by our AJC colleague Shannon McCaffrey at a campaign stop, Walker said, “right now Medicaid has not been good” and that “expanding continues to bankrupt us.”

U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock and other Democrats have pushed for an expansion of the program, arguing that it could bring health care coverage to an estimated 600,000 additional Georgians while boosting the state’s economy. Warnock said Walker’s position marks a clear contrast from Democrats who have pushed to lower health care costs.

Gov. Brian Kemp and other state GOP leaders have long criticized expanding Medicaid, saying it’s too costly and inflexible in the long run. Kemp supports a more limited expansion with work and academic requirements.


HOSPITAL’S FATE. On a similar note, Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens signed an executive order that immediately halted the redevelopment of the soon-to-be shuttered Atlanta Medical Center.

The order was designed to give the city more time to review the impact of the hospital’s closure and possible rezoning of the 25-acre site, our AJC colleague Wilborn Nobles III reported.


Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

TO CHOP OR NOT. President Joe Biden posed with members of the Atlanta Braves’ World Series championship team during Monday’s White House celebration. There were jubilant speeches and hopes to return as repeat winners from players and team executives.

U.S. Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux brought her young son to the celebration, and U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams posed with the Commissioner’s Trophy and showed off the team ring.

Shortly after the festivities ended, reporters gathered for the daily press briefing. White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre fielded a question about the Braves and the controversy surrounding its name and tomahawk chop, which many Native Americans and others find insensitive.

Jean-Pierre’s response was that the Biden administration believes “it’s important to have this conversation.”

“And Native American and indigenous voices, they should be at the center of this conversation,” she added. “That is something that the president believes, that is something this administration believes, and he has consistently emphasized that all people deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.”

Her comments prompted swift criticism from Georgia’s top Republicans as they seek to energize conservatives ahead of tough November matchups.

Senate nominee Herschel Walker, who faces Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock in November, said the pressure to change the team’s name is “ridiculous.”

“Renaming a beloved team like the Braves is a sideshow from the Democrat’s failures. We need to address the serious issues in this country, not woke distractions.”



  • The U.S. Senate is expected to take a procedural vote on a bill that would fund the federal government through Dec. 16. Congress must pass stopgap spending legislation by Friday to avoid a shutdown.
  • The U.S. House is out.
  • President Joe Biden will deliver remarks this afternoon on efforts to lower health care costs and shore up Medicare and Social Security.
  • Vice President Kamala Harris is in Japan where she will represent the U.S. at the state funeral for former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.


Credit: Jason Getz / AJC

Credit: Jason Getz / AJC

GETTING READY. Candidates aren’t the only ones getting ready for Election Day. The Georgia State Election Board will hold one of its last regular meetings Wednesday before voting in the general election begins.

On the agenda are a report on security preparations ahead of voting, a report on the investigation into Coffee County’s voting system, and a period for the public comment on the state’s election systems.

Former Republican state Rep. Edward Lindsey, a recently appointed member of the board, said he hoped people will attend or watch the livestream Wednesday.

“We’re hopeful folks will come away with greater confidence in the outcome, because what we really want folks to do is show up, vote and have confidence in the outcome, particularly if your side loses,” he said on GPB’s Political Rewind with Bill Nigut on Monday. “That’s the cornerstone of our democracy.”


Credit: Jason Getz / AJC

Credit: Jason Getz / AJC


  • Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin joins Gov. Brian Kemp for a campaign rally in Alpharetta this afternoon.
  • U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock stops in Norcross for a meet-and-greet with Korean seniors before the Senate reconvenes in Washington this evening.
  • Herschel Walker’s “Unite Georgia” bus tour continues with a stop in Canton and Calhoun.


POLITICS AND SPORTS. From the earliest days of his campaign, former UGA football star Herschel Walker has promised he’ll prevent transgender athletes from competing in sports different from their gender at birth.

It was the first policy prescription Walker mentioned in May during a massive rally with former President Donald Trump, the highest profile event of Walker’s campaign so far.

“Every time I go out and speak, everybody want a soundbite,” he said. “Well, I’m going to give you a soundbite. We need to get men out of women’s sports first of all.”

Walker has continued to raise the issue at his own rallies, usually with loud applause from audiences.

On Tuesday, he’ll make it the focus of his “Unite Georgia” bus stop in Canton. Former University of Kentucky swimmer Riley Gaines and Olympic Gold Medalist Amber English will join Walker for a stop the Walker campaign says will “highlight the importance of protecting the integrity of women’s sports and Title IX.”

Gaines competed against University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas, who is transgender, and later appeared on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show to speak out against the NCAA for allowing Thomas to compete. They tied for fifth place in the 200 freestyle at the NCAA Women’s Championships this year.


RAMPING UP. Even with economic issues top of mind for most voters, Democrats continue to believe abortion will be a galvanizing issue in the November elections in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

To put the issue front and center for potential supporters, the Democratic Party of Georgia held a “Weekend of Action” last weekend, which focused on abortion rights and the state’s newly enacted law banning abortion at about six weeks.

The party said more than 600 volunteers reached out to about 32,100 likely voters through phone calls and old-school door knocking, with canvassers reaching out to voters at multiple locations around the state. Maybe more important, organizers said their volunteer base roughly tripled over recent weeks.

A kickoff event in Savannah included Mayor Van Johnson, Wade Herring, the Democratic nominee for the 1st Congressional District, and Democratic state Rep. Mary Robichaux.


Credit: Jill Stuckey

Credit: Jill Stuckey

SWEET RIDE. Former President Jimmy Carter, 97, and former first lady Rosalynn Carter, 95, made a surprise visit to the annual Plains Peanut Festival on Saturday.

And they showed up to the rare public appearance not tied to church in style: riding in the back of a red 1946 Ford convertible.

The AJC’s Ernie Suggs reported that the car is a gift from country legends Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood. It is similar to the car the couple rode off on for their honeymoon on July 7, 1946.


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