Biden’s dismissal at a town hall meeting of a $50,000 student debt forgiveness plan prompted pushback Wednesday from Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who said in a joint statement that the move is needed “to immediately deliver much-needed relief to millions of Americans.”
Biden was asked Tuesday night by an attendee at the town hall meeting hosted by CNN in Milwaukee how he might enact such a plan, which is being pushed by some congressional Democrats.
“I will not make that happen,” said Biden, who argued that the president doesn’t have unilateral authority to cancel student debt of that magnitude.
In their statement, Schumer and Warren argued that the president does have that authority and said that both Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump had taken such action.
“The Biden administration has said it is reviewing options for cancelling up to $50,000 in student debt by executive action, and we are confident they will agree with the standards Obama and Trump used as well as leading legal experts who have concluded that the administration has broad authority,” they said. “An ocean of student loan debt is holding back 43 million borrowers and disproportionately weighing down Black and Brown Americans.”
The pair of senators said a move by Biden would “help close the racial wealth gap, benefit the 40% of borrowers who do not have a college degree, and help stimulate the economy.”
“It’s time to act. We will keep fighting,” they added.
At a briefing Wednesday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki clarified that Biden hasn’t ruled anything out, but that his administration will first need to conduct a policy review before he decides what action to take on student debt relief.
“So obviously, that’s a review that would need to take place,” Psaki said. “There’s a legal consideration there, as I think everybody agrees. There’s a policy consideration. And once that’s concluded, he’ll decide the path forward.”
During the town hall, Biden said he understands that student debt “can be debilitating” and added that he could embrace a system where debt is forgiven for those who engage in volunteer work.
But Biden voiced reservations about forgiving debts of students “who have gone to Harvard and Yale and Penn” instead of a state school. And he questioned whether doing so could limit funds available for early-education programs for students who come from disadvantaged homes.
That reasoning was questioned on social media by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.)
“Who cares what school someone went to? Entire generations of working class kids were encouraged to go into more debt under the guise of elitism. This is wrong,” she tweeted Tuesday night. “Nowhere does it say we must trade-off early childhood education for student loan forgiveness. We can have both.”