For The Record

Warnock says after first 100 days new priority is forgiving student loan debt

By: - April 30, 2021 4:35 pm

Sen. Raphael Warnock hosts a virtual town hall April 30, 2021 to review his first 100 days. Ross Williams/Georgia Recorder

At a virtual town hall marking his 100th day in office Friday, Sen. Raphael Warnock looked back on some of his accomplishments and pledged to push for college debt relief and help for rural Georgians.

Chief among his achievements, he said, was his support for the American Rescue Plan, a $1.9 trillion economic relief package including stimulus checks, tax credits and funding for state and local governments. 

“The American Rescue Plan has provided shots in people’s arms, checks in their pockets, and it has begun the work that is necessary to reopen our economy, our schools, for business,” Warnock said. “And so I’m proud of that work. I’m proud of the ways in which we were able to get important legislation inside of the American Rescue Plan, we expanded the Earned Income Tax Credit, we expanded the child tax credit. And the experts tell us that as a result of that, we will cut child poverty in half.”

The town hall was pre-recorded and included questions screened by staff. It came a day after Warnock appeared beside President Joe Biden in Duluth at a rally marking Biden’s 100th day in office.

Warnock pledged to continue to push Biden toward forgiving a portion of student loan debt. 

The first in his family to go to college, Warnock often said on the campaign trail that he would not have found success without Pell grants and other government assistance. Now, many students are struggling with massive loans, he said.

“I’m heartbroken when I see what young people are struggling with right now, in a moment when college debt has surpassed credit card debt in our country,” Warnock said. “College debt has surpassed auto loans. In other words, our young people have a mortgage before they get the chance to have a mortgage, which has all kinds of implications not only for their personal economy, but for the Georgia economy and the American economy.”

Warnock said he signed a letter this week urging Biden to forgive $50,000 of student loan debt per borrower. He also said he would prioritize issues that affect rural Georgians, especially expanding broadband and stemming rural hospital closures.

Warnock said expanding Medicaid will help keep rural hospitals open. Whether that happens depends on the state Legislature, but Warnock said he is doing his best to convince them.

“What I did in that regard as a United States Senator in Georgia, I used the leverage that you gave me by electing me to the U.S. Senate and giving the Democrats the majority to fight for Georgia, and our ability to expand Medicaid so we got $2 billion of additional support to expand Medicaid,” he said.

Warnock also briefly touched on the state’s new voting law, pledging to support the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and the For the People Act to fight what he characterized as voter suppression.

“Know that in the end, failure is not an option,” he said. “We must, and we will, pass voting rights in the Congress, and I’m going to do everything I can to make sure that that happens.”

Republicans say Democrat complaints over the election overhaul are overblown, arguing that sections of the bill will expand early voting hours for many counties.

Republican National Committee spokeswoman Savannah Viar blasted Warnock’s proposals as too costly.

“Raphael Warnock and Joe Biden’s liberal policy proposals amount to an American bankruptcy plan that would cost Georgians trillions of dollars, raise taxes, and kill small businesses—something they are both familiar with after costing the state millions due to their lies about Georgia’s election integrity law,” she said. “Georgians deserve true leadership, not whatever socialist wish list Warnock and Biden have created.”

Biden has said he will pay for his plans with a tax on top earners and corporations and has pledged not to raise taxes on Americans making under $400,000 per year.

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Ross Williams
Ross Williams

Before joining the Georgia Recorder, Ross Williams covered local and state government for the Marietta Daily Journal.Williams' reporting took him from City Hall to homeless camps, from the offices of business executives to the living rooms of grieving parents. His work earned recognition from the Georgia Associated Press Media Editors and the Georgia Press Association, including beat reporting, business writing and non-deadline reporting. A native of Cobb County, Williams holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Atlanta's Oglethorpe University and a master’s in journalism from Northwestern University.