Congressional Republicans on Thursday passed a joint resolution to try to block President Joe Biden’s student debt relief program. Just two of Congress’ Democrats sided with the Republicans, including Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, who represents Southwest Washington’s 3rd Congressional District.
Gluesenkamp Perez, who founded and owns a Portland auto-repair business with her husband, Dean, said in a statement that she couldn’t support debt forgiveness for college students without equal investments in career and technical education.
The resolution is an attempt to repeal Biden’s debt relief program, which would forgive student loans up to $20,000, depending on income levels and whether that student received a federal Pell Grant. It also seeks to end a pandemic-era student loan repayment pause extended by the Biden administration. The effort faces an uphill battle in the Democrat-controlled Senate. Biden’s relief plan is currently on hold as the Supreme Court considers its legality.
Glusenkamp Perez campaigned on her working-class roots. Her great great grandfather Bert Gilmore was a quarry foreman who helped build the Washington state Capitol, Gluesenkamp Perez’ campaign website says, and her grandmother was born in a logging camp.
Gluesenkamp Perez herself graduated from Portland’s elite private Reed College. Twitter critics were quick to point out that she’s also been the beneficiary of federal loan forgiveness. During the pandemic, Dean’s Car Care received a $64,000 paycheck protection loan, which was forgiven as of April of 2021, according to a database compiled by the Salem Statesman Journal.
The Oregonian/OregonLive reached out to Gluesenkamp Perez for comment Friday on that loan and more information about what kinds of investments in technical education she’d like to see.
Spokesperson Hannah Crook said Gluesenkamp Perez would be satisfied with investments in career technical education at the college or high school level.
Crook also said the comparison of the paycheck protection loan to student debt relief “makes no sense.”
“She didn’t choose to live through a pandemic,” Crook said. “Access to PPP loans was practically universal, and the PPP loan let her mechanics feed their families.”
Community colleges often facilitate apprenticeship programs that lead directly to high-paying trade jobs. One of the top paying associate degrees through Clackamas Community College is an apprenticeship partnership with Portland General Electric, which nets completers an average of $88,000 their first year after completing the program.