Congress

Sen. Bernie Sanders bill would forgive all college debt

Sanders plan ups the ante on Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s plan to cancel student debt for 95 percent

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders will unveil his plan to cancel out debt for all who are paying for student loans. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Sen. Bernie Sanders touted new legislation Monday to zero out student debt for millions of borrowers.

The proposal — the College For All Act — would relieve the debt of all borrowers and would be paid for by a series of taxes on Wall Street transactions. States would ensure that students can attend public colleges without paying tuition or fees, in exchange for $48 billion per year in federal funding.

Those federal dollars could not be spent on administrator salaries or football stadiums. Students attending one of the nation’s private nonprofit Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) may also be eligible for reduced or free tuition under the bill.

“In a generation hard-hit by the Wall Street crash of 2008,” Sanders said, “it cancels all student debt and ends the absurdity of sentencing an entire generation to a lifetime of debt for the ‘crime’ of getting a college education.”

The Vermont senator’s bill follows a signature proposal unveiled by rival presidential hopeful Sen. Elizabeth Warren in April to forgive $50,000 of debt for every household with incomes less than $100,000 a year, and thousands in debt for households with incomes less than $250,000. The Massachusetts senator would finance debt relief with a tax on the wealth of multi-millionaires.

Sanders’ plan would tax the buying and selling of stocks, bonds and derivatives — which he has argued has the added bonus of reducing speculative trading.

“In 2008, the American people bailed out Wall Street. Now, it is Wall Street's turn to help the middle class and working class of this country,” Sanders said.

Sanders and Warren have jostled for the support of progressives with ambitious policy proposals to reduce income inequality and expand the public sector as they work to match the lead of former Vice President and Delaware Sen. Joe Biden, who is outpacing both candidates in early primary states.

Sanders’ plan would be sponsored in the House by the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Pramila Jayapal of Washington, along with Reps. Nanette Barragán of California and Ilhan Omar of Michigan.

The plan reaches 45 million people and cancels 100 percent of student loans; the Warren plan reaches 42 million people, 95 percent of borrowers, and cancels 75 percent of student loans.

Both senators have called for public universities to be tuition-free. Sanders made the proposal a rallying cry during his 2016 presidential run. And both senators argue that the debt cancelation would be an economic stimulus. Student debt acts as an anchor weighing down rates of home ownership and new small businesses, Warren said in a Medium post.

Niels Lesniewski contributed to this report.

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