During a floor speech on Thursday, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) denounced the Biden administration’s refusal to “cancel” student debt.
Since President Joe Biden took office, progressive lawmakers have been pressuring him into forgiving federal student loans. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) — joined by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) — said in July that “all President Biden has to do is flick his pen” and cancel $50,000 of obligations for each borrower.
Meanwhile, other Democrats — including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) — question the premise that student loan forgiveness is a beneficial policy.
“Suppose,” she said in response to Schumer’s argument, “your child at this time does not want to go to college, but you’re paying taxes to forgive someone else’s obligation. You may not be happy about that.”
As recorded by Fox Business, Ocasio-Cortez implored Biden to reconsider student debt forgiveness — which, according to the White House, requires an act of Congress.
“It’s teenagers signing up for what is often hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt. We just do that. Our government allows that,” Ocasio-Cortez argued. “We give 17-year-olds the ability to sign on and sign up for $100,000 worth of debt and we think that’s responsible policy.”
“I’m greatly looking forward to the Biden administration canceling student loan debt and no longer advancing the false narratives that student loan debt is for the privileged,” she added. “What a ridiculous assertion. Do we really think that a billionaire’s child is taking student loans?”
Though Biden has refused to unilaterally forgive student debt, he extended the moratorium on payments for Department of Education loans until 2022 following pressure from the progressive faction of his party.
“This will give the Department of Education and borrowers more time and more certainty as they prepare to restart student loan payments,” the White House said. “It will also ensure a smoother transition that minimizes loan defaults and delinquencies that hurt families and undermine our economic recovery.”
Warren, however, said that delaying student debt is insufficient — calling debt forgiveness an “economic justice issue” and a “racial justice issue.”
“The President does have the power to cancel student loan debt,” she told CNN anchor Don Lemon. “And you know how I know that? Because President Obama did it, President Trump did it, and President Biden has already done it. President Obama did it for several million people. President Trump did it when he said ‘For all 43 million people without standing student loan debt, I forgive your interest and you can spend payments.’ That’s canceling your interest — not delay it, cancel it.”
“And President Biden has done both of those things,” she continued. “So Presidents have the power, they have used the power — I just want to see him use that power to cancel $50,000 in student loan debt.”
“African-Americans borrow more money to go to school, more money while they’re in school, and have a harder time paying it off when they get out of school,” Warren noted. “Canceling $50,000 of student loan debt would help close the black-white wealth gap for people with student loan debt by twenty-five points. And for Latinos, by twenty-seven points.”
In quarter two of 2021, the Federal Reserve estimated that Americans owe $1.73 trillion in student loans.