Summer Lee Speaks on Student Debt Crisis from ‘Lived Expertise’ – Convening CPC Special Order Hour on Harms from Right-Wing Judiciary’s on our Freedoms

Mar 10, 2023
Press

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – U.S. Congresswoman Summer Lee (PA-12) convened the Congressional Progressive Caucus in a Special Order Hour on the right-wing judiciary’s attacks on our freedoms– from student loan relief to reproductive health care. Reps. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Hank Johnson (D-GA), Sheila Cherfilus-Mccormick (D-TX), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), and Morgan McGarvey (D-KY) also spoke.

To watch the full hour click here.

Lee said, “To the 1.7 million Pennsylvanians afraid that SCOTUS could rip up your debt relief, I feel your pain. As a black woman, and a first generation college student and a Pell Grant recipient that is still in a mountain of student debt myself, I’m right there with you–angry and exhausted by a system that’s failing us miserably.”

Lee continued  “These problems are systemic both in who’s behind these attacks and who they hurt the most. My community will be punished for getting an education for the same reason that half the country’s freedom to control our bodies and our futures–and the same reason a federal judge in Texas is expected to outlaw abortion pills. It’s the same reason that corporations are allowed to spend unlimited amounts of money on elections, and the same reason corporate PACs are able to come in and blow Black women out of the water when we run for office.

“It’s because an unelected right-wing, Republican-appointed judiciary is waging a full-on assault on our freedoms. The folks whose forebears were enslaved are the folks who today are shackled by tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands in student loans. It’s those who are denied access to adequate maternal health care by the wealthiest country on earth that are subjected to forced birth. It’s those whose loved ones fled violence for a better life, but are separated from their children and locked up at the border. The most marginalized folks bear the brunt of the reactionary right-wing judiciary’s attacks. Black folks, brown folks, trans folks, poor folks, and otherwise marginalized folks.” 

You can watch her full remarks here or on Twitter.

Full remarks below: 

“I rise today on behalf of the Congressional Progressive Caucus to convene this special order hour, today to discuss the growing threats and harms that we have seen from our right-wing judiciary. 

Indeed, I stand here today on behalf of the more than 40 million working and middle-class Americans eligible for relief under President Biden’s student debt cancellation plan, who might never see that relief because a Republican-appointed Supreme Court majority chose to take up a politically motivated lawsuit brought by a network of right-wing billionaires. 

To the 1.7 million Pennsylvanians afraid that SCOTUS could rip up your debt relief, I feel your pain. 

As a Black woman, first-generation college student, and Pell grant recipient that is STILL in a mountain of student debt myself, I’m right there with you–angry and exhausted by a system that’s failing us miserably.  

Like you, every decision I make is shaped by the obscene amount of student debt I carry because I had the audacity to pursue a higher education–as the daughter of a working class single mom from the Mon Valley. 

Millions of folks who can’t start their lives because of the suffocating burden of their student loan debt—and yet in 2023, only 44 out of the 435 members of the U.S. House of Representatives carried student loan debt. 

While I hope there’s more of us with that lived expertise – I want the rest of my colleagues to hear about the people closest to the pain, like my sister Rep. Pressley would say.

For poor and working class folks–crushing student debt is preventing us from buying homes, saving for retirement, starting businesses, starting families, and building generational wealth. 

For all Black college graduates who owe an average of $25,000 more in student loan debt, and for Black women who carry the highest student debt burdens, it’s an even greater barrier.

It’s an economic crisis for ALL poor and working class folks–and Black and brown folks are getting hit the hardest. 

And in Western PA, the student debt crisis is a regional crisis holding our future hostage by preventing students and workers from accessing the training they need for our region to become the innovation hub and leader in STEM,  that hundreds of thousands of good paying jobs depend on right now. 

Under President Biden’s plan, one-in-four Black borrowers will see their debt fully eliminated,  and nearly half of all Latino borrowers will be entirely debt free. This is our best shot at addressing the systemic inequities that have forced communities of color to take on higher debt for the chance at a college degree.

On the day the Supreme Court began hearing that case that could rip away relief from this crisis, I met with a group of student organizers from Western PA on the frontlines of our fight. 

Those students, who camped out overnight in front of the Supreme Court to have their voices heard, told me what student debt relief would mean to them. 

They asked me what insight I had from my first two months in Congress. I told them these problems are systemic–systemic both in who’s behind these attacks and who they hurt the most.  

My community will be punished for getting an education for the same reason that half the country’s freedom to control our bodies and our futures–and the same reason a federal judge in Texas is expected to outlaw abortion pills. 

It’s the same reason that corporations are allowed to spend unlimited amounts of money on elections, and the same reason corporate PACs are able to come in and blow Black women out of the water when we run for office.

It’s because an unelected right-wing, Republican-appointed judiciary is waging a full-on assault on our freedoms. 

Those folks whose forebears were enslaved are the folks who today are shackled by tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands in student loans. 

It’s those who are denied access to adequate maternal health care by the wealthiest country on earth that are subjected to forced birth. 

It’s those whose loved ones fled violence for a better life, but are separated from their children and locked up at the border.

The most marginalized folks bear the brunt of the reactionary right-wing judiciary’s attacks. Black folks, brown folks, trans folks, poor folks, and otherwise marginalized folks. 

Our communities deserve leaders who will fight back as hard as the organizers back home. 

Leaders who carry student debt, who’ve depended on food stamps, leaders who lacked access to reproductive health care on Medicaid, who went to public school that were divested, who’ve lived with poor air quality because of unregulated industry. 

That is why I was sent to Congress, and now I want to yield to my colleagues with the lived expertise to fight for you too.

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