On student loans, why not challenge Repubicans?

The WSJ reports that President Biden is delaying his decision on student loan forgiveness:

President Biden is likely to decide later this summer whether to partially forgive student-loan debt for millions of borrowers, according to administration officials and others familiar with the matter, after the president said more than a month ago that he would weigh in on the issue in the next couple of weeks.

The officials said Mr. Biden is likely to announce his plans in July or August, closer to when the pandemic-related pause in federal student loan payments is scheduled to lapse, as the president and his senior advisers continue to weigh the political and economic fallout of any such move. The Biden administration earlier this year extended the pause, which has been in effect since March 2020, until Sept. 1.

Biden’s reluctance to act on this issue is understandable.  The politics are unclear, and although policy reform is clearly needed it is far better to address the issue through legislation than executive action.  Legislation can establish a sustainable, on-going program to provide financing for higher education and debt relief for struggling borrowers, and it will be much less vulnerable to reversal by the courts or the next administration.  Legislation could also deal with important related issues, such as improving college graduation rates.

But given that Biden has decided to wait, why not ask Congress – and specifically Republicans – to address the issue through bipartisan legislation?  Then he can acknowledge that whatever plan he ultimately chooses is imperfect, and blame Republicans for obstructing progress and forcing him to use executive action to address student debt problems.

I don’t think that messaging problems are at the heart of the Democrats’ short-term political struggles – the main problems are inflation and COVID, Republican obstructionism, and unrealistic expectations that the Democrats themselves encouraged.  But given that Congress is evenly divided and hopelessly gridlocked, messaging is what they have, and it is critical to educate voters about the way our democracy works and the extremism of the Republican party.