Rep. Alexandria-Ocasio Cortez claimed on Monday that it was “literally easier” for her to be elected to Congress than pay off her student loans.
“It was literally easier for me to become the youngest woman in American history elected to Congress than it is for me to pay off my student loan debt,” she said at an event on Capitol Hill where Sen. Bernie Sanders presented his plan to cancel $1.6 trillion of student loan debt.
Ocasio-Cortez’s historic election in the 2018 midterms unseated longtime incumbent Joe Crowley, a high-ranking Democrat in the House at the time. However, Ocasio-Cortez argued it would not be appropriate to hold those with student loan debt to the standard of unseating an incumbent Congressman for a chance to pay off their loan debt.
“In order for me to get a chance to have healthcare… to pay off my student loans, I had to do something that was nearly impossible,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “And I don’t think that that is the bar through which a person should be able to access education, healthcare, and a bevy of other things that should be considered human rights.”
The New York Democrat made these remarks at a press conference alongside Sanders, Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar and Washington Rep. Pramila Jayapal, co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, for the launch of Sanders’ proposal for his student debt bill. The legislation would cancel $1.6 trillion of student loan undergraduate and graduate debt for approximately 45 million people.
The plan is part of a more comprehensive “college for all” program that Sanders has released in pieces and includes free tuition at all four-year public colleges and universities, as well as community colleges. The broader proposal also includes subsidies to reduce the cost of tuition and fees for low income students at private colleges that historically serve underrepresented communities.
Sanders also talked about his detailed roadmap – centered on new taxes on Wall Street – to raise the $2.2 trillion dollars necessary to pay for this program and his other college funding plans. It will include a 0.5% tax on stock trades which comes out to 50 cents for every $100 worth of stock, a 0.1% fee on bonds, and a 0.005% fee on derivatives. Sanders believes that could raise more than $2.4 trillion dollars over the next 10 years.
During, the press conference, Ocasio-Cortez called out the double standard regarding personal responsibility that is applied to student debts compared to other aspects of young adults’ lives.
“What we tell 17-year-olds all the time is that ‘you are not old enough or responsible enough to drink… to vote…to serve in our military, but you are old enough and responsible enough to take on a quarter million dollars worth of debt,’ and that is wrong,” Ocasio-Cortez said.