U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., answers questions from reporters after the weekly Senate Democratic Politics Luncheon at the U.S. Capitol on September 14, 2021.
Evelyne Hockstein | Reuters
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on Tuesday renewed his call for President Joe Biden to write off $ 50,000 in student debt for all borrowers through executive action.
“With a flick of the pen, President Biden alone, without any action or approval from Congress, could give millions upon millions of student loan borrowers new life,” Schumer told Virtual summit on the state of student debt. The remote event includes discussions on racial inequalities in debt, its consequences for mental health and more. Senator Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., And Representative Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., Were also in attendance.
“It would allow these Americans to finally buy that house, save on children’s education, start a small business, or get into whatever profession they want,” Schumer said. “It could spark a wave of economic activity that our country is missing today.”
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For those who view Schumer as a more moderate Democrat, his advocacy for student debt cancellation through executive action came as a surprise. In the 2020 Democratic primary, it was the more progressive candidates, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., And Warren who were pushing for broad relief. Biden had argued for a narrower approach.
Since taking office, the president has continued to express his skepticism about the benefits of the blanket loan cancellation.
In an interview with New York Times columnist David Brooks in May, Biden noted, “The idea that you go to Penn and pay a total of $ 70,000 a year and the public should pay for it? I disagree.”
Later in a CNN town hall, the president said it made no sense to cancel loans “for people who went to Harvard, Yale and Penn”.
Advocates point out that it is largely a myth that people with student debt – especially those struggling with them – have the benefit of a prestigious education behind them. Indeed, less than 1% of borrowers attended an Ivy League college.
Schumer also takes a different stance from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who said the president does not have the power to write off student loan debt.
Biden has yet to decide if he can write off the loans without Congress. He has asked the Department of Justice and the Department of Education to consider his options, and the agencies’ findings have yet to be made public.
Schumer applauded the Biden administration for the billions of dollars in student debt it has already canceled, for borrowers with disabilities or attending fraudulent schools. But he said a lot more needs to be done.
“It’s a step in the right direction, I grant it,” Schumer said. “But in the grand scheme of things, that falls way, far below what we need to see.”