Progressives step up pressure on Biden over student loans

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Progressives who spent months pushing President BidenJoe BidenBiden pushes to support Florida schools amid DeSantis Cuomo mask dispute resigns after investigation found he harassed divided female GOP governors over response to COVID-19 PLUS outbreak to cancel billions of dollars in student debt are now targeting an end to a federal pause on loan repayments as the deadline for White House action.

Biden extended the freeze on student loan bills until Jan.31 on Friday, but said it would be the last time the Education Department renewed a hiatus on payments in place since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

While the president has won praise from some Democrats, he has also increased the chances that a fierce debate within the party will continue into an election year by pushing the cliff of student loan repayments until 2022.

Democratic lawmakers and activists who support executive action to write off much of the $ 1.6 trillion in federal student debt are pressuring Biden to act before an estimated 43 million Americans owe start repaying their loans again.

“Looks like January 31, 2022 is the deadline to cancel student debt. No more need for extensions, ”said Rep Jamaal Bowman (DN.Y.) in a tweet.

Bowman is one of many pro-Biden progressive lawmakers using a stroke of a pen to forgive $ 50,000 in student loans per borrower. The president opened the door to eliminating some debt, but declined to go up to $ 50,000 and suggested that the amount forgiven would depend on the borrower’s income. He also expressed support for capping the loan forgiveness at $ 10,000.

Schumer, who faces re-election next year, has partnered with some of the party’s most vocal supporters for student debt cancellation, such as Sen. Elizabeth warrenElizabeth Warren Democrats Introduce Bill to Ensure Bigger Corporations Pay a “Fair Share” of Taxes Progressives Put Pressure on Biden on Student Loans Senate Democrats at Garland: “Time to End to the federal death penalty “ (D-Mass.) And Rep. Ayanna pressleyAyanna Pressley Progressives step up pressure on Biden over student loans Biden extends hiatus on student loan payments until 2022 ‘The Squad’ celebrates moratorium on Biden expulsion MORE (D-Mass.).

Less than a week after the 2020 election, Schumer said Biden had the power and obligation to write off up to $ 50,000 in student debt per borrower once he took office. Since then, Schumer and a coalition of progressive lawmakers have kept the pressure on Biden, most recently in a statement acknowledging the extended loan hiatus.

“While this temporary relief is welcome, it doesn’t go far enough. Our broken student loan system continues to exacerbate racial wealth gaps and dampen our entire economy, ”Schumer, Warren and Pressley said in a Friday statement.

“Canceling student debt is one of the most important actions President Biden can take right now to build a fairer economy and fight racial inequality.”

Progressives have supported executive action on student loan cancellation for several years as a way to reduce inequality and close the racial wealth gap. The issue has garnered wider support over the past 18 months as an economic pandemic relief measure, but it doesn’t ring well beyond the Democratic base and continues to divide party leaders.

While Schumer gave his support for the one-sided pardon, the President Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Senate adopts bipartite infrastructure bill | Energy Ministry Proposes Rule To Increase Light Bulb Efficiency | Administration begins review of Trump bird habitat left open for mining Are subpoenas of members a wise move for Jan 6 select committee? House to cut recess, adopt Democratic budget plan PLUS (D-Calif.) Expressed doubts about its legal and political viability.

“He can postpone, he can delay, but he doesn’t have that power,” Pelosi said of Biden at a press conference last month. “It would be better an act of Congress.”

While the cancellation of student loans is very popular among progressive voters, Pelosi has suggested it could alienate others as Democrats attempt to defend several vulnerable members in highly competitive districts that could determine which party controls the House.

“Suppose your… child decides that at this point he doesn’t want to go to college, but you pay taxes to forgive someone else’s obligations. You might not be happy about it, ”Pelosi said.

Uneven Democrat support for student loan cancellation and universal Republican opposition mean legislative debt relief is highly unlikely. Congress will also spend the next few months consumed by other laws like the bipartisan $ 1,000 billion infrastructure bill, the $ 3.5 trillion Democratic budget reconciliation measure, the debt ceiling and funding. government.

Even so, the pressure on Biden will only intensify as the United States draws closer to the eventual expiration of the student loan repayment freeze, especially as progressives continue their efforts to push Biden towards the end. left.

Experts supporting student loan cancellations warn Biden has a narrow window to take executive action before the end of the payments freeze given the plethora of legal challenges it will likely create.

Pamela Foohey, a professor at the Cardozo School of Law specializing in consumer debt issues, said Biden likely had the power to write off federal student loans under the Higher Education Act. But she added that the Education Department may determine that it must submit a loan cancellation program as part of the federal rule-making process, which could take “more than a year.”

“If the moratorium ends at the end of January and people have to pay off these loans for a few more years, it could be really economically devastating for many families,” Foohey said.

Democrats are also hoping to avoid a repeat of the recent extension of the eviction moratorium in which Congress failed to act, despite knowing the deadline in a month, and Biden has taken executive action that has since taken action. subject to legal scrutiny.

Any student loan cancellation plan would likely be closer to what Biden has set out, not necessarily the progressive goal of $ 50,000.

“The Ministry of Education will probably cancel part of the loans for part of the people with good economic support to do so. This will save the country more money to free people from this heavy debt than to try to collect them, ”Foohey said.

While the course of action Biden lands on may be less ambitious than progressives hope, it could still have a significant impact on some of the hardest hit borrowers, according to a May Federal Reserve survey.

The Fed found that 20 percent of Americans with student loan debt were in arrears with their payments last year, including 31 percent of those with an associate’s degree or less. But the Fed also found that those most in debt were slightly more likely to be able to keep their loans up to date thanks to a higher level of education.

While 21 percent of borrowers with less than $ 15,000 in unpaid debt were in arrears with their payments, only 17 percent of those with $ 15,000 or more in debt were also in arrears.

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