With their first of two debates set for Thursday, GOP Congressman Don Bacon and Democrat Tony Vargas are sparring over student loans.
View our full report above and check back for a complete transcript.
Thursday's 1-hour debate will be followed by their second and final debate Sunday evening.

Joe Jordan, News Channel Nebraska: Do you agree with the President’s plan on forgiving student loans?

State Sen. Tony Vargas: I want to get people into good jobs. I want community college, 4-year college, or get them into jobs right away. But I also wouldn't have gone about it this way. I probably would have focused more of our efforts on lower income families. 

Rep. Don Bacon: I think it's mistake. First of all it’s not constitutional; secondly I know so many people who've paid off their loans… they don't…they feel like they got the shaft.

While Vargas is on the student loan fence, Bacon is firmly opposed.

At the same time Bacon voted for hundreds of billions of dollars in COVID relief, the paycheck protection plan, to keep businesses open during the pandemic.

Jim Pillen, the GOP candidate for governor, received nearly $8 million in PPP loans with $2.5 million never repaid.

As News Channel Nebraska first reported Republican Charles Herbster, who lost to Pillen, received PPP loans totaling $3.5 million none of it repaid.

Jordan: They didn't pay all of them back, millions of dollars; not just $10,000 or $20,000 which is what these students are getting. Why is it any different?


Bacon: That Congress passed. We did not pass the tuition… you know paying off the tuition bill. that is the President doing it with a pen. I don't think it's constitutional. And so, if we wanted to avoid a depression or severe recession what the paycheck protection plan does. We say businesses you’re forced to shut their doors but we're going to give you this money so you can make your payroll.

Jordan: But shouldn't they have had to pay back the loans?

Bacon: Well, the government decided that for the most part they're not going to get their money back.

Jordan: What do you say to taxpayer A who says, “Why should I be paying off this guy’s student loans, he should be paying them off himself.”

Vargas: It's one of the reasons I want to really focus on improving the systems that we do have. We have billions of dollars every single year that goes unutilized in federal Pell grants. This can be utilized for trade schools, community colleges, 4-year colleges.

Jordan: So, is that taxpayer who complaints about paying off someone else’s loans right?

Vargas: I don't know if they're right or wrong, but I can tell you, if you need somebody in Congress who's actually going to fight on behalf of making it easier for you not harder. One of the things I'm proud of is I'm actually a federal Pell Grant recipient and I worked my way through college. And I also took out loans myself they're all paid off now.

Jordan: Anybody else in your immediate family have any outstanding student loans?

Vargas: I don't know anybody else in my immediate family that has student loans right now.

Immediately following our interview, a spokesperson for Vargas told NCN: “Sen. Vargas clarified that while his student loans are paid off, his wife still has outstanding loans, but they do not qualify to be forgiven under the Biden plan.”