Republican congressional candidate Lisa Scheller, who was leading the 7th District primary, talks to a voter outside of the polling place at Tracy Elementary School in Palmer Township on Tuesday, 5/17/22 (Photos by Donna Fisher for Armchair Lehigh Valley).
Lisa Scheller, the Republican candidate in the 7th Congressional District, is criticizing President Joe Biden’s student loan forgiveness initiative as a move that means the state’s “working families will be forced to pay off the debts of doctorate degree elites.”
Her Aug. 24 tweet came the same day that Biden said he will forgive up to $10,000 in student loans for borrowers with income of less than $125,000 for an individual and $250,000 for a household. The figure rises to $20,000 for Pell grant recipients.
Tweets such as Scheller’s have drawn a rebuke from the White House because Scheller, like other Republican candidates and elected officials, saw the benefit of federal loan forgiveness themselves – Pennsylvania’s U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly, R-16th District, among them.
Scheller is president and CEO of Silberline Manufacturing in Schuylkill County, a global aluminum pigment company that includes operations in North America, South America, Europe, Africa and China.
Silberline saw slightly more than $5 million in PPP loans forgiven in 2020 and 2021, according to ProPublica’s PPP tracking system.
The Paycheck Protection Program, established during the Trump administration, provided $953 billion in business loans to help during the coronavirus pandemic that saw businesses shut down. Recipients did not have to pay the money back as long as they followed procedures for using the money.
Scheller’s campaign manager Pierce Frauenheim defended the tweet.
“There is no comparison between a bipartisan emergency small business loan program that was administered during a global pandemic when the government abruptly shut down the economy to President Biden’s political play to forgive some student loans and save his tanking approval ratings,” he said in an email. “Biden and Wild’s political program, which is being paid for by hardworking families across the Lehigh Valley, is purely motivated by salvaging their embarrassingly low approval ratings heading into the midterm elections.”
Wild, who is seeking a third, two-year term, supports Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan.
In early August, Wild reintroduced legislation to restructure the federal student loan repayment system.
“For millions of people, paying off student loan debt is a massive struggle, largely due to ridiculously high predatory interest rates, compounding of interest, and unnecessarily complicated loan structures,” she said in an email.
“We have to fix the fundamental issues with our federal student loan repayment system, and forgiving loans doesn’t make these fundamental changes. That’s why it’s imperative for the House to take up my Simplifying Student Loans Act (H.R. 8700), to reduce interest rates on federal loans to 1 percent, and change the repayment system to an income-based amount without further interest accruing, as well as adding transparency to the loan process. This will relieve the financial burden on both current and future borrowers.”
Scheller is running against Wild for a second time. Wild beat Scheller 51.9- 48.1 percent in 2020.
Scheller limited her tweet to student borrowers who have PhDs. The Educational Data Initiative reports that the average debt among PhD holders is $159,625, a figure that includes undergraduate and graduate programs.
Her tweet on the student loan forgiveness plan aligns with one of her main campaign messages — tying Biden and Wild to the high inflation rate that has gripped the nation.
“Whether it be gas, groceries, or taxes to subsidize those making 6 figure salaries, our working families are paying more and can’t afford the Biden-Wild agenda,” Scheller said in the tweet.
The 7th District comprises all of Lehigh, Northampton and Carbon counties and a small portion of Monroe County.
Katherine Reinhard covers the Lehigh Valley for the Capital-Star. She wrote this for Armchair Lehigh Valley, a politics newsletter, where it first appeared.
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