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Lawmakers asked President Biden to single-handedly cancel student loan debt.
During a Tuesday afternoon press conference, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), joined by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), stressed the purported economic benefits of pausing — and outright ending — federal student loan payments.
Schumer first asked President Biden to extend the federal pause on debt payments — a proposal that the three lawmakers suggested in June, arguing that the Department of Education’s “suspension of payments and interest during the pandemic has provided essential relief to borrowers and their families during this economic and public health crisis.”
Schumer then suggested that Biden leverage his executive authority to waive tens of thousands of dollars in debt for each borrower.
“We are also continuing to call on President Biden to use his existing legal authority to cancel up to $50,000 of student debt,” continued Schumer. “This pause has actually shown how important canceling student debt is to borrowers and to our economy… ten times over, canceling $50,000 in debt would be even more important and helpful to these folks who are borrowers, to get the economy going, and to deal with the racial inequality which student debt has exacerbated.”
“All President Biden has to do is flick his pen and sign it,” Schumer said. “Make America a happier, better, more prosperous place. We’re going to keep fighting until this happens.”
Weeks after his inauguration, President Biden drew the ire of progressives for shirking the possibility of forgiving student debt — a promise upon which he had campaigned.
“I understand the impact of debt, and it can be debilitating,” said the Commander-in-Chief during a February town hall. “I am prepared to write off the $10,000 debt but not fifty because I don’t think I have the authority to do it.”
Under authority ceded to him under the Higher Education Act, the White House believes that Biden is able to forgive $10,000 per individual federal student loan borrower through an executive order. As White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki explained at the time, Biden planned to commission a review under the Department of Justice to determine his legal authority to cancel loan payments. Months later, however, student loan forgiveness was entirely left out of President Biden’s first budget proposal.
As of July 2021, American borrowers owe $1.73 trillion in student loans, with over 43 million Americans in debt by an average of $39,351 each.