President-elect Joe Biden Wednesday interrogates whether he will have the power to cancel student loan debt through executive action and has said it is “unlikely” to do so, remarks which have provoked a backlash from progressives who argue that he will soon have the power – and a moral obligation – to provide at least some relief to millions of indebted Americans.
Reiterating his pledge to reinstate the Paris climate accord and protect Dreamers with executive action, Biden said he was skeptical of the possibility of unilaterally canceling $ 50,000 in student loan debt for many borrowers, one proposal pushed by Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (DN.Y.) and others. A survey released last month found that 60% of U.S. voters would support Biden forgiving up to $ 50,000 in student loan debt per person.
“Unacceptable. Joe Biden can change the course of history for millions of Americans and energize the economy with the stroke of a pen. Keep pushing.”
—Rahna Epting, MoveOn
“I’m going to be in trouble saying that… for example, it could be argued that the president might have the executive power to write off up to $ 50,000 in student debt,” Biden said in a statement. maintenance with the Washington post, correctly anticipating the progressive outrage aroused by his position. “Well, I think that’s pretty moot. I’m not sure. I probably wouldn’t do that.”
Biden has offers write off $ 10,000 in federal student debt per borrower through legislation, which would require congressional approval. If Democrats don’t win both U.S. Senate ballots in Georgia next month, Biden’s reluctance to use his executive authority could stand in the way of meaningful relief for Americans who collectively hold over $ 1.7 trillion in student loan debt.
“It is simply not correct to say that the legal authority to write off student debt through executive action is ‘questionable’,” noted Alexis Goldstein, Senior Policy Analyst at Americans for Financial Reform. “The authority is clear, documented, and even the Trump administration has used the executive branch to cancel interest payments on student loans, TWICE: in March (before CARES), then in August.”
“The Trump administration used executive action a third time to cancel student loan interest payments once again … on December 4, when the payment break was extended to the end. January 2021, “noted Goldstein.
Rahna Epting, executive director of rights group MoveOn, called Biden’s stance “unacceptable” and said progressives must keep up the pressure on the incoming administration. MoveOn is part of a diverse coalition of more than 230 organizations calling on the president-elect to “use executive power to cancel federal student debt from day one” of his administration.
With their september letter arguing that the president can order the secretary of education to write off $ 50,000 in student loan debt without congressional approval, Warren and Schumer have attached a seven-page document analysis (pdf) legal experts claiming that the president has the power to take such action.
“We have consulted the legislative and regulatory framework governing federal student loan programs administered by the Department of Education, as well as the framework and the monitoring interpretations of the budget structure of these programs,” wrote Eileen Connor, Deanne Loonin and Toby Merrill of the Predatory Student Loans Project. “We conclude that such broad or categorical debt cancellation would be a legal and permissible exercise of the Secretary’s authority under applicable law.”
Biden’s interview on Wednesday with the To post It was not the first time that the president-elect has rejected progressive demands that he would use his executive authority to right injustices. In a meeting with civil rights leaders earlier this month, Biden claims that “the executive authority of which my progressive friends speak is far beyond the limits.”
“Where I have executive authority, I’ll use it to undo every damn thing this guy has done by executive authority,” the president-elect said, “but I’m not going to exercise executive authority where it is. ‘is a question. “
“Biden lying to cover up his refusal to write off student debt is pitiful cowardice,” Grim tweeted.
The youth-led Sunrise movement added Thursday that “Biden has the power to write off student loan debt. Not using it is immoral.”
Young people live from paycheck to paycheck. More of us than ever are considering suicide. And the weight of debt weighs on so many of our necks because we did what society told us to do: go to school. @Joe Biden has the power to #CancelStudentDebt. Not to use it is immoral. https://t.co/ZJVpllc1bt
– Sunrise movement (@sunrisemvmt) December 24, 2020
Demands that the Biden administration act quickly to provide student debt relief have been made more pressing by Congress’ failure to extend the suspension of federal student loan payments in new coronavirus relief legislation. The moratorium is expected to expire at the end of January, shortly after Biden takes office.
“It’s a major failure,” Ashley Harrington, federal director of advocacy at the Center for Responsible Lending, Recount the Washington post. “It is now more urgent than ever for the Biden-Harris administration to keep its promise to provide comprehensive and substantial debt cancellation and take the necessary steps to prevent further financial devastation for borrowers and vulnerable communities.”