• Rep. Tim Ryan on Wednesday said Biden's student-loan forgiveness plan "sends the wrong message." 
  • Ryan argued that the plan benefits those who are "already on a trajectory to financial security."
  • The congressman is currently in a tight contest with Republican JD Vance in Ohio's open Senate race.

Rep. Tim Ryan, the Democratic nominee in Ohio's highly-watched Senate race, criticized President Joe Biden's newly-released student-loan forgiveness plan, arguing that it "sends the wrong message" and emphasizing that government should instead be "working to level the playing field for all Americans."

Ryan — who has remained competitive in his race against JD Vance in the Republican-leaning Buckeye State — has long run as a populist Democrat in his Mahoning Valley-anchored congressional district.

But his latest statements reflect a major break from much of the party, as he spoke of the difficulties of rising college costs while also contending that Biden's plan would benefit higher-income workers.

"As someone who's paying off my own family's student loans, I know the costs of higher education are too high," he said in a statement on Wednesday. "And while there's no doubt that a college education should be about opening opportunities, waiving debt for those already on a trajectory to financial security sends the wrong message to the millions of Ohioans without a degree working just as hard to make ends meet."

He added: "Instead of forgiving student loans for six-figure earners, we should be working to level the playing field for all Americans."

Biden on Wednesday announced that he would forgive $10,000 in federal student-loan debt for borrowers earning under $125,000 per year, with up to $20,000 in relief for those who received Pell grants and fall under the same income threshold. Also critical in the plan is Biden capping monthly repayment of federal student loans at 5% of an individual's income through a new income-driven repayment plan, along with his fifth, and final, extension of the student-loan payment pause through December 31. 

While Democrats — especially progressive lawmakers — have cheered the move, Republicans have cast the plan as a giveaway to wealthy taxpayers and slammed Biden for not addressing tuition in higher education instead. They have also questioned the sheer legality of Biden's actions — according to Fox News, nearly 100 of them called on Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to take actions against the president for overstepping his authority with the broad relief.

Ryan's reaction differed from that of three-term Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown, the state's senior senator who has also stuck to a populist tack throughout his political career.

"For too long, student debt has prevented generations of Americans from pursuing their dreams and seeing their hard work pay off," Brown said in a statement. "Now, President Biden is keeping his campaign promise to provide relief, to give people power and agency in their lives again, and to unleash the potential of a generation of Americans. Many Ohioans will now have the opportunity to start families, buy homes, and open businesses."

Ryan has emphasized economic issues in his bid to defeat Vance, the "Hillbilly Elegy" author and venture capitalist, in a state that in recent years has shifted from a Midwestern battleground to one easily won by former President Donald Trump in 2016 and 2020.

Vance in a statement decried the student-loan forgiveness plan after Biden's announcement.

"Instead of holding administrators accountable for skyrocketing tuition, bloated bureaucratic budgets, and growing armies of 'diversity' consultants, Joe Biden has decided to bail out the group of people least in need – individuals with six figure incomes, and couples making nearly a quarter million dollars per year," he said.

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