As the end of pandemic relief for student debt looms, progressives are pushing the White House for clarity on its plans for cancelling some student debt.
The administration has delayed movement on student debt cancellation while waiting for the Education Department’s review of presidential authority to cancel debt, which has dragged on for more than six months. With the pandemic pause on student debt payments set to expire in January, a group of progressive House members, led by Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), made clear on Friday that they’re tired of waiting—and are demanding that the administration release the Education Department’s findings in the next two weeks.
“The resumption of payments on federally-held student loans weighs heavily on tens of millions of borrowers,” wrote 15 House members in a letter they will send to the White House on Friday, as reported by Politico. “The time has come to release the memo and deliver on your promise to cancel student debt. Doing so will benefit every citizen and support our communities. With a single signature, you can improve the economy, create new jobs, transform the lives of 45 million Americans, narrow the racial wealth gap, and maintain the trust of voters.”
In April, White House chief of staff Ron Klain told Axios that the administration would make a decision about the president’s authority to cancel debt within “the next few weeks”—they were simply waiting to receive the relevant memo. But there has been no public word about the contents of this memo, or about the decisions that would stem from it. In their letter, progressives argue that the executive branch is already using its legal authority to cancel debt to provide pandemic relief from student loans, which includes a pause on interest accrual.
“It would be an exercise in legal gymnastics to suggest that the President had the authority to cancel the interest on student debt on his first day, but lacks the authority to cancel the principal on student debt moving forward,” they write.
This move is the latest in an ongoing disagreement between progressives and Biden about student debt cancellation. On the campaign trail, Biden promised to cancel up to $10,000 in student debt for most individuals, but a group of congressional Democrats, led by long-time student debt foe Sen. Elizabeth Warren, have been pushing the administration to cancel $50,000 instead.