Warren and Schumer keep pressure on Biden to cancel student debt

Chuck Schumer cancel student debt
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer during a press conference about student debt outside the Capitol on February 4. Drew Angerer/Getty Images
  • Progressive lawmakers are continuing to push Biden to cancel student debt with executive action.
  • They say legislation will take too long and that an executive order is a quicker option.
  • The stimulus’ tax exemption on student-loan forgiveness paves the way for Biden to act, they say.
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Democrats are celebrating the passage of the American Rescue Plan as a win for Americans and now beginning to look forward to an infrastructure-spending bill. That leaves another major agenda item from the 2020 campaign not on the legislative agenda: canceling student debt.

Since President Joe Biden took office in January, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren have been urging him to take action to cancel up to $US50,000 ($64,523) in student-loan debt per person. Along with other progressive lawmakers, they have said Biden has the executive authority to do so without legislation from Congress, but he’s said he doesn’t believe he has that authority. Biden campaigned on canceling up to $US10,000 ($12,905) a person and has said he’s still open to doing so.

In a press call on Monday, Schumer said that if Biden could cancel $US10,000 ($12,905) in student debt, there was no reason he couldn’t cancel $US50,000 ($64,523).

“If it’s OK legally to do a small amount, it’s OK legally to do a larger amount,” Schumer said.

-Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) March 15, 2021

During a CNN town hall on February 16, the president said he would support the higher amount of debt cancellation but only through legislation because that would be harder to undo than an executive action.

In Monday’s press call, Warren said that while she had legislation drafted, there was a “real advantage” to taking action through an executive order because it wouldn’t have to go through a budgeting process, which would ensure quick implementation.

“We have a lot on our plate, including moving to infrastructure and all kinds of other things,” Warren said. “I have legislation to do it, but to me, that’s just not a reason to hold off. The president can do this, and I very much hope that he will.”

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said during a press briefing on February 17 that the Justice Department would review Biden’s ability to cancel student debt through executive action. Schumer said that if the president chose not to act, Democrats would have to pursue other options. But he added that executive action remained “far and away, the quickest, best, and easiest” method.

-Jen Psaki (@PressSec) February 4, 2021

Even though she hasn’t swayed Biden thus far, Warren succeeded in including a provision in the American Rescue Plan that exempted student-loan forgiveness from taxation through 2025. She and other Democrats who support action on student-loan debt say this exemption paves the way for Biden to cancel up to $US50,000 ($64,523) a person.

“The American Rescue Plan is a strong, progressive law that will help millions of middle-class, working-class, and poor families across this country,” Warren said during the press call. “Canceling student-loan debt is a perfect follow-up, and this new tax law helps pave the way.”