Democrats in the House and Senate are planning to introduce a resolution Thursday, calling on President Biden to use executive action to remove $50,000 of federal student loan debt – though Biden’s response to such a demand remains dubious.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York will hold a press conference Thursday morning to announce the initiative alongside Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., who has been vocal in calling on the Biden administration to take action.
“Canceling student loan debt would immediately put money in the pockets of millions of Americans. It would help dig our economy out of this crisis,” Warren said in a tweet earlier this week. “And we don’t have to wait for Congress: the Biden-Harris administration can get it done with their executive authority,” she added.
Democratic Reps. Mondaire Jones of New York, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, and Alma Adams of North Carolina have thrown their support behind the resolution and will be present during the Thursday presser.
But the president’s response to the resolution remains unclear. While Biden has repeatedly said he supports student debt relief, he has disagreed with Democratic lawmakers calling for executive action.
The president has said he supports the elimination of $10,000 of federal student loan debt, but he has also called on Congress to address legislation on loan forgiveness.
“It’s arguable that the president may have the executive power to forgive up to $50,000 in student debt,” Biden told the Washington Post in December. “Well, I think that’s pretty questionable.”
The University of Delaware graduate, class of 1965, added about using the executive order, “I’m unsure of that. I’d be unlikely to do that.”
The calls to eliminate crippling student debt first hit the political arena a decade ago, when students frustrated with their inability to cope with spiking university loans took to the streets to protest under the Occupy Wall Street movement.
But Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vt., and Warren brought back its urgency by running on the issue in their 2020 presidential campaigns – and Warren, despite dropping her candidacy, has not let the idea go.
Warren, a former professor on bankruptcy law, and Schumer drew up a resolution in September, calling on the next administration to cancel up to $50,000 of federal student debt without the need for congressional approval, by utilizing the 1965 Higher Education Act.
Biden has already signed nearly 30 executive orders, including placing a pause on student loan payments in light of the coronavirus pandemic – which suggests if the president wanted to utilize executive action in canceling a portion of federal student loans owed, he would have done so.
While Biden has made it clear he will not wait for bipartisan support on his $1.9 trillion stimulus package for coronavirus-related economic relief, he has not voiced the same determination in pushing through other fiscal policies.
Warren on Wednesday pressed Biden’s pick for secretary of education on the school loan issue. She asked Miguel Cardona during his confirmation hearing to commit to providing “immediate relief” for student debt borrowers and told the former Connecticut school principal, "One route that I'm going to continue to urge you to take is administrative cancellation of student loan debt. The law in this is clear."
The two-term senator reminded Cardona, “Majority Leader Schumer and I have outlined how you and President Biden can immediately cancel $50,000 in student loan debt.”
For his part, Cardona agreed that student loan debt has a "significant impact" on borrowers' lives and while he did state that the federal government should provide "borrowers with immediate relief," he did not offer any specifics on how to accomplish that goal.
Roughly 44 million Americans, or one in six people in the U.S., have debt in the form of federal student loans – a staggering $1.6 trillion worth of student debt.
Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said student debt in the U.S. negatively impacts an American's entire “economic life.”
Fox News could not immediately reach Schumer or Warren for comment.
Brittany De Lea contributed to this report.