Left-wing progressive members of Congress announced a resolution Thursday urging President Joe Biden to bypass the legislative branch to which they were elected and unilaterally cancel tens of thousands of dollars of debt for every American who has federal student loan debt.
What are they pushing?
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Reps. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), Anna Adams (D-N.C.), Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.), and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) announced their resolution at a press conference Thursday, NBC News reported.
The non-binding resolution, which has more than 50 cosponsors so far, calls on the president to forget waiting for Congress to pass legislation and instead use executive action to erase up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt for all borrowers. The resolution also demands that Biden’s action shield borrowers from any tax liability following the debt cancellation.
The legislators’ resolution claims the secretary of education has the authority to cancel the debt via the Higher Education Act of 1965. From Forbes:
Progressive lawmakers and consumer rights organizations have argued that the Higher Education Act gives the President broad authority to release borrowers from their student loans. A specific provision of the statute provides the President, via the Secretary of Education, with the the power to “enforce, pay, compromise, waive, or release any right, title, claim, lien, or demand, however acquired, including any equity or any right of redemption.”
Schumer stated that Biden “can do this on his own,” assuring reporters that he and Sen. Warren “have researched this thoroughly, and there is legal authority.”
The liberal lawmakers urged Biden to remember who put him in office and act accordingly.
Pressley said Biden must “be responsive to the movement that elected him,” adding, “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.”
Schumer, too, noted that Biden’s base is counting on him.
“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,” he said. “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, naturally, framed the debt cancellation as a boon to the economy, calling it “the single most effective executive action that President Biden can take to kickstart this economy.” However, she, like the rest of the resolution’s backers, failed to explain how the government would pay for the debt erasure.
The move would “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,” she said.
How did the White House respond?
For his part, Biden has repeatedly said he would support $10,000 in student loan debt forgiveness — but he wants the move to come via legislation first passed by Congress and then sent to his desk.
Press secretary Jen Psaki echoed Biden’s stance Thursday when asked about the Democratic legislators’ resolutions.
“The president has and continues to support canceling $10,000 of federal student loan debt per person as a response to the COVID crisis,” she said, according to NBC News, adding, “He’s calling on Congress to draft the proposal.”
“And if it is passed and sent to his desk, he will l look forward to signing it,” Psaki added.
However, she tweeted later that the White House “is reviewing whether there are any steps [Biden] can take through executive action.”