WASHINGTON – White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Thursday that the Biden administration was looking at whether it could use the executive branch to write off part of the $ 1.6 trillion in federal student loans owed by 43 millions of Americans.
“The president continues to support student debt cancellation to provide relief to students and families,” Psaki said in a tweet. “Our team is examining if there are any steps he can take through executive action and would welcome the opportunity to sign a bill sent to him by Congress.”
This is the first time that the administration has publicly signaled its willingness to consider executive action to cancel student loans. Biden said forgetting at least $ 10,000 in education debt would be part of his economic stimulus package after he was elected in November. Liberal consumer groups were disappointed when the policy was excluded from the president’s $ 1.9 trillion pandemic relief program and pressured him to use his administrative authority.
Biden said he was skeptical of the extent of his authority and supported congressional legislation to write off $ 10,000 in education debt.
Congressional Democrats urged the president to act alone.
On Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., Senator Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., And Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., Reintroduced a resolution calling on Biden to provide up to 50 $ 000 tax free. Debt Cancellation for All Federal Student Loans Borrowers.
“There is very little the president could do with the stroke of a pen that would boost our economy more than forgiving $ 50,000 in student debt,” Schumer told reporters Thursday. “It’s one of those things the president can do on his own.”
Liberal lawmakers say the Biden administration could use the same legal authority to cancel debt that the Trump administration used to temporarily waive interest on federal student loans during the pandemic.
In a White House briefing ahead of his tweet Thursday afternoon, Psaki reiterated the president’s support for Congress to pass debt cancellation legislation.
Debt relief, she said, is a priority for Biden, who has asked the Education Department to extend the existing pause on federal student loan payments until September 30.
“He has already taken a step into executive action on day one,” Psaki said, referring to the extension of the moratorium on student loans. “He would look to Congress for the next steps.”
For now, however, congressional action on debt cancellation appears unlikely. Even though Democrats control both houses of Congress, they have a slim majority and Republicans oppose blanket debt cancellation. Democrats are set to use “fiscal reconciliation,” a move that would allow them to pass legislation without Republican votes, for Biden’s bailout. This package does not include debt cancellation, and congressional advisers say lawmakers are not forcing the issue.
Since Congress did not pass a budget resolution last year, Democrats can use reconciliation twice this year, giving them another route to some form of debt cancellation before 2022. Liberal lawmakers would prefer let Biden act long before that to ease the burden of educational debt for generations of Americans.
“This pandemic has made it nearly impossible to ignore that we can and must take bold action to address the inequalities and disparities in our country,” Pressley said Thursday. “Executing student debt cancellation is one of the most effective ways to provide sweeping relief to millions of families, help close the racial wealth gap, and get started. to lay the foundations for a fair, just and long-term recovery. “
Pressley led the initial resolution in December, but Democrats have been fighting for student debt cancellation to ease the economic impact of the pandemic since March. The election of Biden, who campaigned on canceling education loans, gave lawmakers and liberal advocates hope for a way forward.