WASHINGTON – Erasing $50,000 in federal student loan debt by executive order appears to be off the table as President Joe Biden continues to evaluate some sort of debt relief amid mounting pressure from fellow Democrats.
While speaking with reporters Thursday, President Biden was asked about using executive authority to cancel student loan debt. He responded, saying he “is not considering $50,000 debt reduction.”
Forgiving $50,000 in student loan debt is one of the larger student loan forgiveness proposals that has been suggested by lawmakers, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).
It’s not necessarily a surprise that Biden isn’t considering $50,000 per borrower — while on the campaign trail, Biden supported a much smaller plan of up to $10,000 in forgiveness per borrower.
Under the Biden administration, roughly $17 billion in federal student loan debt has been canceled for some 725,000 borrowers. On Thursday, the Department of Education announced another $238 million in student loan relief for roughly 28,000 borrowers defrauded by Marinello Schools of Beauty.
While that may seem like a lot, that $17 billion in total relief actually equates to about 1% of the $1.6 trillion in federal student debt Americans have. Pressure continues to grow for more debt forgiveness as the end of the payment moratorium — set to expire on August 31 — and midterm elections near.
In a private meeting with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus earlier this week, Biden reportedly “gave strong indications” that his administration is preparing to take executive action on forgiving student loans in the coming months. He backed up that statement Thursday, saying he is “considering dealing with some debt reduction.”
“There will be additional debt forgiveness, and I’ll have an answer on that in the next couple of weeks,” Biden told reporters.
There has been confusion regarding Biden’s power to cancel student loans. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said he lacks legal authority, instead remarking that it “would be an act of Congress.” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, on the other hand, has argued Biden could do it under the same legal provision Trump used to delay payments and interest accrual at the start of the pandemic, The Hill reports.
According to The Hill, Biden requested a memo from the Department of Education on his authority to forgive student debt through an executive order a year ago, but the administration hasn’t announced whether that memo is complete.
Republicans have introduced legislation to not only limit Biden’s authority to extend a payment moratorium but “prohibit the president from canceling outstanding federal student loan obligations due to a national emergency.”
“The majority of Americans do not have college degrees,” Sen. Mike Braun (R-IN) said in a press release regarding the legislation, called the Stop Reckless Student Loan Actions Act. “Why should they be forced to pick up the tab for college degrees in the name of pandemic relief? This transfer of wealth is not a move to ‘advance equity,’ but rather a taxpayer handout to appease far-left activists.”