"Student loan borrowers have political power. It's time we use it."
A new campaign launched Thursday aims to channel widespread anger over the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling against student debt cancellation into an effort to unseat House Republicans who have opposed and attempted to sabotage debt relief every step of the way.
Launched by the nonprofit Protect Borrowers Action, the campaign will focus its attention on more than a dozen Republican-held seats in battleground districts, targeting Reps. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), Scott Perry (R-Pa.), Don Bacon (R-Neb.), and 10 others ahead of the 2024 elections.
Each of the House Republicans that Protect Borrowers Action is looking to unseat signed an amicus brief urging the Supreme Court to strike down President Joe Biden's debt relief plan and supported a failed effort to repeal the president's program using the Congressional Review Act.
"Working people burdened with student debt are mad as hell over the hypocrisy of treating conservative billionaires one way and those striving for the middle class another," Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers—a backer of the new campaign—said in a statement.
"Right-wing politicians need to hear loud and clear that when they put the interests of conservative billionaires above the financial welfare of their own constituents, they will be held accountable," said Weingarten. "Protect Borrowers Action will educate and empower voters with the knowledge necessary to do just that. Gone are the days where politicians get a pass for being complicit in the student debt crisis plaguing our communities."
The $2 million campaign kicked off with a digital ad pledging to make sure the 13 Republican lawmakers "hear from their constituents who they kept drowning in debt."
The campaign's launch comes less than a week after the Supreme Court's conservative justices sided with Republican attorneys general and ruled that Biden's plan to cancel up to $20,000 in student debt per eligible borrower was unconstitutional.
The decision was met with immediate backlash from progressive lawmakers and advocates, who wasted no time urging Biden to cancel student debt immediately using his authority under the Higher Education Act of 1965.
The Biden administration instead initiated what's likely to be a time-consuming "rulemaking process aimed at opening an alternative path to debt relief"—an approach that debt relief advocates decried as unnecessary foot-dragging that will diminish the prospects of delivering relief to more than 40 million borrowers as they face the resumption of loan payments in less than three months.
Survey data released Wednesday by Data for Progress shows that 54% of likely U.S. voters support Biden using the Higher Education Act to cancel student debt following the Supreme Court's decision last week.
But the sustained popularity of student debt cancellation has not stopped Republican lawmakers from vocally opposing relief and cheering the Supreme Court for blocking Biden's original plan.
Boebert, one of the Republicans targeted by Protect Borrowers Action, took to Twitter after the ruling to applaud the high court, calling Biden's debt relief program a "$400 billion student loan bailout."
The Biden White House noted in response that had the Supreme Court upheld the administration's plan, 87,500 of Boebert's constituents would have been eligible for relief.
It's those constituents in Colorado, and in key congressional districts across the country, that Protect Borrowers Action is looking to mobilize in the coming months.
"After nearly a year defending student debt relief, it feels good to play offense," Mike Pierce, executive director of Protect Borrowers Action, tweeted Thursday. "Student loan borrowers have political power. It's time we use it."