Biden shoots down progressive calls to cancel student loan debt via executive action

Progressives have been given another reason to be upset with Democratic nominee and presumptive President-elect Joe Biden.

Biden recently called into question the proposal by progressives to use executive action to cancel a large amount of student debt, MarketWatch reported Thursday. 

“I’m going to get in trouble for saying this, [but] 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. “Well, I think that’s pretty questionable. I’m unsure of that. I’d be unlikely to do that.”

The proposal

Although there are various proposals regarding canceling student loan debt, Biden was specifically referring to one put forth by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).

The plan has also received the backing of a number of progressives in Congress, including Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN).

Schumer and Warren think Biden can use executive action, specifically “existing authority under the Higher Education Act,” to “forgive” $50,000 in student loan debt, and have been urging Biden to do so when he takes office.

“We have come to the conclusion that President Biden can undo this debt, can forgive $50,000 of debt the first day he becomes president,” Schumer told reporters earlier this month. “You don’t need Congress. All you need is the flick of a pen.”

It is unclear whether a U.S. president could actually cancel debt through an executive order and if Biden were to try, it would likely face a legal challenge. However, it may be irrelevant as Biden said that he is “unlikely” to try to cancel debt in that way.

Biden’s plan

Biden does, however, have an idea of his own to cancel some student loan debt that is outlined in “The Biden Emergency Action Plan to Save the Economy.”

Under his plan, the canceling of student loan debt wouldn’t take place through executive action but through a coronavirus relief package.

According to the plan, Biden wants to “forgive a minimum of $10,000 per person of federal student loans,” and have the government “cover monthly loan payments for people with private student loans until September 2021 and forgive $10,000 of their debt.”

Biden appears to still be pursuing this plan.

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