Sanders unveils student debt plan amid rivalry with Warren

Sanders unveils student debt plan amid rivalry with Warren

By Sylvan Lane

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders on Monday unveiled an ambitious proposal to cancel student-loan debt, seeking to reinforce his progressive credentials days before the first debate.

For Sanders, an independent senator from Vermont, the student-debt plan is an opportunity to reestablish himself as the Democratic primary field’s progressive leader on the issue of college affordability.

The plan comes as the Vermont senator finds himself facing an ascendant progressive rival in Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who has set herself apart by releasing a steady stream of sweeping policy proposals.

Warren, who poses perhaps the most significant challenge to Sanders on the left, unveiled a plan earlier this year that would cancel up to $50,000 in student loan debt for those earning less than $100,000 a year and eliminate tuition at public colleges.

“It’s smart on his part. It’s an extension on the 2016 campaign when he called for free college tuition in public universities,” said Mark Longabaugh, a top adviser to Sanders’s 2016 presidential campaign.

“So I think this is just taking it a step further. Both the Warren and the Bernie plans are not only good public policy – good progressive policy – but good politics.” The Hill’s Naomi Jagoda and Max Greenwood have more here.

The big numbers: The plan calls for eliminating $1.6 trillion in U.S. student debt. It would clear away the student debt of 45 million Americans entirely. Sanders would pay for the bill with a Wall Street tax that would reportedly raise $2 trillion over 10 years.

The political dynamic:

The proposal comes at a crucial time for Sanders’s campaign. The first Democratic presidential primary debates are this week, and recent polls show Warren gaining momentum in the primary contest.

While Warren still trails Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden in most national surveys, she has significantly narrowed the gap, with some polls even showing her pulling ahead of Sanders.

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