Biden administration moves closer to student debt relief

President Joe bidenThe university administration is “examining” what executive measures it could take to write off some student loan debts, its press secretary said Thursday, the first time the White House has indicated the president could act unilaterally on the question.

“The president continues to support the cancellation of student debt to provide relief to students and families,” said Jen Psaki, White House press secretary. wrote on Twitter. “Our team is examining if there are any steps he can take through executive action and he would be happy to be able to sign a bill sent to him by Congress.”

A Democratic source familiar with the process, speaking on condition of anonymity, said an “important and ongoing” White House review examines both the president’s legal authority over the matter and how the cancellation debt would influence the economy.

The White House review comes amid lobbying from Congressional Democrats who are part of a progressive effort to reframe debt cancellation as a global economic stimulus rather than a gift to the young and the wealthy.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and four House Democrats – Reps Alma Adams from North Carolina, Ayanna Pressley from Massachusetts, Ilhan Omar from Minnesota and Mondaire Jones from New York – have reintroduced a resolution calling on Biden to unilaterally eliminate up to $ 50,000 in student loan debt per borrower.

“We are pushing the president and his people,” Schumer said at a press conference outside Capitol Hill Thursday morning. “We’re not going to give up until we get it done.”

Shortly after winning the Democratic nomination last spring, Biden approved the forgiveness of $ 10,000 in undergraduate debt per person as a coronavirus relief measure, and the elimination of all debt for them. people who attended public colleges or historically black colleges and universities and earn less than $ 125,000 per year.

Student debt is preventing Americans across the country from building and creating wealth that they can pass on to their children and grandchildren. This is felt most keenly by black and brown Americans.
Representative Alma Adams (DN.C.)

But he had made it clear that he hoped for congressional action on the matter and that he was skeptical of claims the administration could unilaterally cancel the debt – a power that Warren and Schumer repeatedly insisted on Biden.

“Arguably the president may have the executive power to write off up to $ 50,000 in student debt,” Biden told a group of newspaper columnists shortly before Christmas. “Well, I think that’s pretty questionable. I’m not sure of it. I probably wouldn’t do that.

Biden’s coronavirus relief plan, however, did not include any student debt relief measures and there is little indication that Democrats intend to include it in a relief plan that they hope to adopt later this month. Biden used his executive authority to extend a coronavirus-related hiatus on student debt payments until September on his first day in office.

Progressives have tried to persuade the White House that the president has the power to go much further. Schumer said he and Warren discussed the issue with the Biden for 45 minutes last month. Congressional Progressive Caucus chair Pramila Jayapal told reporters last week that she discussed the issue with Susan Rice, chair of the White House Home Policy Council.

Progressives working to pressure the Biden administration know they need to convince the White House of the political and political arguments for blanket debt cancellation, and have focused on presenting it as a tool to boost debt. economy and help a large portion of the American public, not just those 20 and over with a college education.

“This is a major tool to help you do whatever you want to do to help grow your economy,” said Representative Katie Porter (D-Calif.) Building Small Businesses and Strengthening Business Accounts. family savings. “I think for too long this has been seen as a problem for young people, or a problem for those with a college education. It is part of an overall strategy for economic growth.

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At the press conference, speakers attempted to highlight the wide variety of Americans affected. Warren noted that 40% of people in debt don’t have a four-year college degree, many because they couldn’t complete their education. Omar noted that the fastest growing group of debtors are over 50 years old.

And there has been a constant effort to highlight how debt exacerbates the racial wealth gap. The top four House members on the resolution are all black and have explicitly argued that wiping out student debt would help the Biden administration close the racial wealth gap.

“Student debt is preventing Americans across the country from building and creating wealth that they can pass on to their children and grandchildren,” Adams said. “This is felt most acutely by black and brown Americans. “

Americans owe a combined $ 1.5 trillion in student debt, with 45 million borrowers averaging $ 17,000 in the hole and paying just over $ 200 a month. These totals have risen in recent years as states cut spending on public universities and higher education administrative costs rise.

Yet progressives stick to one of their main arguments: Canceling student debt would motivate hard-to-reach young voters, who turned out in record numbers to boost Biden in 2020 but whose attendance has historically dropped in the midterm elections.

“Forgiving $ 50,000 in student loans should be a no-brainer,” said Ben Wessel, executive director of NextGen America, a Democratic super PAC focused on training voters under 40. “The young voters Biden and the Democrats need to run in 2022 are part of the most indebted generation of all time. Giving them a very tangible economic boost with the stroke of a pen isn’t just the thing. good thing to do, but good policy if we are to get less frequent voters. ”

The possibility of student debt cancellation also became a flashpoint during Wednesday’s session. confirmation of charges hearing for Miguel Cardona, Biden’s candidate for secretary of education.

North Carolina Senator Richard Burr, the top Republican on the Senate committee that oversees the Education Department, said he would oppose any widespread debt cancellation effort, calling it “dangerous and reckless “and suggesting that it would be illegal.

“I will oppose any effort to simply shift debt from borrowers to taxpayers,” Burr said, urging Cardona instead to work on bipartisan legislation to make loan repayment easier.

Warren, meanwhile, asked Cardona about the impact of student debt on borrowers and asked him to “commit to doing whatever you can … to provide borrowers with immediate relief.”

Cardona, who appears to be heading for confirmation, agreed.

There will be at least one advocate for widespread debt cancellation in his department. On Thursday, he announced that Julie Margetta Morgan, a former Warren employee who has studied student loan issues for more than a decade, will join the Under Secretary’s office as a senior advisor.

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