(AP) – The Biden administration is examining whether it can take steps to ease student debt through executive action, even as it continues to call on Congress to pass legislation to help borrowers and their families.
A tweet from White House press secretary Jen Psaki appeared to go beyond her comments at a briefing earlier Thursday, when she said President Joe Biden was counting on Congress to act next on student loan relief. Biden said he supports up to $ 10,000 of student loan cancellations per borrower.
“The president continues to support the cancellation of student debt to provide relief to students and families,” Psaki tweeted. “Our team is examining if there are any steps he can take through executive action and he would be happy to be able to sign a bill sent to him by Congress.”
It came hours after a group of Democrats urged Biden to use executive action to write off $ 50,000 in federal student debt for all borrowers. The group, which included Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York and Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, said it would stimulate the economy and help close the country’s racial wealth gap.
Biden had previously said he supported wiping out student debt of up to $ 10,000 through legislation, but had not shown interest in executive action. During a briefing before posting his statement on Twitter, Psaki appeared to reject the idea of using presidential powers to write off debt, saying Biden had already suspended student loan payments during the pandemic.
“He would look to Congress for the next steps,” she said.
Lawyers have fallen on either side of whether Biden himself has the power to grant loan relief, with some saying the move is unlikely to survive a legal challenge.
The Trump administration took action to block a large-scale debt cancellation in early January, issuing an Education Department note concluding that the secretary did not have the authority to provide such assistance and that it would be up to Congress. .
Schumer said he and Warren had studied the matter and concluded that “this is one of those things the president can do on his own.” Former presidents have written off the debt, Schumer said, but not on the scale proposed.
Democrats insist on the issue as a matter of racial justice and as a relief from COVID-19. They rely on statistics showing that black and Latino borrowers are more likely to take on student debt and take longer to repay their loans.
Representative Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., Said the student debt crisis “has always been a matter of racial and economic justice.”
“But for too long the narrative has excluded black and Latin communities, and how that debt has exacerbated deep-rooted racial and economic inequalities in our country,” she said.
Representative Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., Also supports the measure, which said it would help millions of Americans who suffered financial losses during the pandemic. “The last thing people should worry about is their student loan debt,” she said.
Calls for debt cancellation have escalated after years of rising tuition fees that have contributed to the increase in national student debt. More than 42 million Americans now hold federal student loans totaling $ 1.5 trillion, according to data from the Department of Education.
In an effort to provide relief shortly after last year’s pandemic, the Trump administration suspended federal student loan payments and set interest rates at zero percent. When he took office, Biden extended the moratorium until at least September 30.
Some Democrats say that’s not enough, and Schumer said he recently met with Biden to advocate for broader relief.
Forgiving $ 50,000 in student debt would cost around $ 650 billion, Warren said. She says it would be a “big positive” for the economy by allowing more Americans to buy homes and start businesses.
Republicans have pledged to fight any attempt at blanket debt cancellation, saying it unfairly shifts the burden from borrowers to taxpayers.
In a hearing Wednesday with Biden’s candidate for Education Secretary, Senator Richard Burr, RN.C., urged the White House to reject calls for the mass surrender and pursue legislation instead aimed at simplifying loan repayment options.