Maine’s congressional delegation was sharply divided on Wednesday over President Biden’s announcement that he was canceling student loan debts for millions of Americans.

And some of the strongest criticism came from a fellow Democrat, Rep. Jared Golden.

Biden’s executive order cancels $10,000 to $20,000 in federal student loan debt for individuals earning less than $125,000 a year. The action fulfills a promise he made as a candidate, and the White House estimates it could assist up to 43 million borrowers.

Golden issued a blistering statement criticizing the move.

“This decision by the president is out of touch with what the majority of the American people want from the White House, which is leadership to address the most immediate challenges the country is facing,” Golden said in a written statement. “The president should be taking action to reduce inflationary pressures; with this move, he potentially makes them worse. It is out of step with the needs and values of working-class Americans, and I do not support the president’s decision.”

Golden, who is campaigning to keep his job representing the state’s more conservative 2nd Congressional District, also was the only member of the Democratic caucus to vote against Biden’s original Build Back Better climate and social spending plan.


Sen. Susan Collins, the lone Republican in New England’s entire delegation, said the president’s decision to extend relief to comfortable middle-class families – it includes married couples making up to $250,000 – was “inherently unfair to millions of hardworking Americans who chose not to pursue higher education; paid their own way to attend a community college, trade school, or certificate program; or paid off their student loans.”

“Essentially, the president is requiring a hardworking logger to subsidize a graduate of Yale who is earning far more but has student loans,” Collins said in a statement. “With the stroke of a pen and without congressional approval, the president has added more than $300 billion in new spending.”

By contrast, Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-1st District, praised the move, which also includes longer payment periods and an extension of a pandemic-era, no-interest repayment pause to the end of 2022. She said it is “an important step towards addressing the crisis that has been crushing Americans for decades.”

“Now, we must rethink our system that fostered this crisis in the first place: charging taxpayers seeking an education interest on their own money,” Pingree said in a written statement, alluding to a bill she has co-sponsored that would allow Americans to refinance their federal student loans at a zero percent interest through the end of 2024.

A spokesman for Sen. Angus King, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, indicated in an email that King would have preferred a different approach to addressing the cost of higher education.

“While Sen. King recognizes the value of President Biden’s means-tested, limited student loan move, he believes the skyrocketing cost of college is something that needs to be addressed more directly and sustainably,” Matthew Felling said. “Making higher education affordable and accessible is crucial to developing a 21st-century workforce, supporting Maine’s growing industries, and providing every young American an opportunity for success.”

Biden’s student debt package will cancel $10,000 in loans held by borrowers making less than $125,000 a year – and married couples making less than $250,000. Borrowers below that income level who received Pell grants – which are only given to low-income students – will be able to cancel an additional $10,000. The president made the changes to federal student loans via executive order and did not need congressional approval.

Biden had promised to address debt forgiveness – a key demand among many younger Democratic voters – during his 2020 campaign and he described it as a move that would lift people out of crushing debt and boost the economy.

“All of this means people can start finally to climb out from under that mountain of debt,” Biden said in his remarks announcing the package. “To finally think about buying a home or starting a family or starting a business. And by the way, when this happens the whole economy is better off.”

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