Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Ayanna Pressley on Thursday urged President Biden use his executive authority to cancel up to $50,000 in student loan debt for federal student loan borrowers.
Schumer, D-N.Y., Warren, D-Mass., and Pressley, D-Mass., on Thursday reintroduced a resolution, which would allow the secretary of education to “cancel up to $50,000 in federal student debt.”
The resolution also called on Biden to take executive action to “administratively cancel up to $50,000 in Federal student loan debt for Federal student loan borrowers” using “existing legal authorities” under the Higher Education act of 1965. The resolution also “encourages” Biden to use executive authority under the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, which would prevent administrative debt cancellation from resulting in a tax liability for borrowers.
The lawmakers also encouraged Biden to “continue to pause” student loan payments and interest for federal student loan borrowers for the “entire duration of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
More than four dozen Democratic lawmakers in both the House and the Senate joined the resolution on Thursday.
“Student loan debt is weighing down millions of families in New York and across this country,” Schumer said in a statement. “During a time of historic and overlapping crises, which are disproportionately impacting communities of color, we must do everything in our power to deliver real relief to the American people, lift up our struggling economy and close the racial wealth gap. Democrats are committed to big, bold action, and this resolution to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt is one of the strongest steps the president can take to achieve these goals.”
Warren added that “President Biden can take the single most effective executive action available to provide a massive stimulus to our economy, help narrow the racial wealth gap, and lift this impossible burden off of tens of millions of families” by cancelling the student loan debt.
“President Biden has the legal authority to cancel billions in student debt with the stroke of a pen and he must meet the moment by using that authority, which would not only set us on a path to an equitable recovery, but would also help reduce the racial wealth gap,” Pressley said.
Biden, on his first day in office, extended the pause on federal student loan payments and interest through Sept. 30, 2021.
On Thursday, though, Schumer said: “President Biden has taken some good steps in the direction of student debt but we think he has to go much further.”
“The bottom line is this is one of those things the President can do on his own,” Schumer said.
Warren added: “Canceling student loan debt is the single most effective executive action that President Biden can take to kickstart this economy.”
During a White House press briefing Thursday, press secretary Jen Psaki was asked whether the president would support the efforts from congressional Democrats.
Psaki said Biden “has and continues to support canceling $10,000 in student loan debt,” and maintained that he is “calling on Congress to draft a proposal.”
“If it is passed and sent to his desk, he will look forward to signing it,” Psaki said.
Psaki underscored that on his first day in office, Biden signed an executive order to pause federal student loan payments and interest through the end of September amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“I think he took a step through executive action on the first day and would look to Congress to take the next step,” Psaki said.
In November, when Schumer began pushing for student loan debt cancellation through executive action, Biden said there should be “immediate” congressional action on student loans.
“Immediate $10,000 forgiveness of student loans, helping people up there in real trouble,” Biden said Monday. “They’re having to make choices between paying their student loan and paying the rent. Those kinds of decisions.”
Biden added: “It should be done immediately.”
The official clarified that what Biden was referring to was congressional action.
Such sweeping executive action would almost certainly face a legal challenge, and it’s unclear whether it could survive. Critics have argued that using such power exceeds the president’s authority granted by Congress. Canceling student loan debt would also add to the nation’s already-ballooning national deficit, which totaled a record $3.1 trillion for the 2020 fiscal year.
Outstanding student loan debt has doubled over the past decade, nearing a staggering $1.7 trillion. About one in six American adults owes money on federal student loan debt, which is the largest amount of non-mortgage debt in the U.S. It has been cited as a major hindrance in people’s “economic life” by Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell.