Biden requesting information on legal authority to cancel student debt

President BidenJoe BidenManchin to vote to nix Biden's vaccine mandate for larger businesses Congress averts shutdown after vaccine mandate fight Senate cuts deal to clear government funding bill MORE has requested information from Education Secretary Miguel CardonaMiguel CardonaHillicon Valley — Immigrants being put in surveillance programs Senate Democrats urge government to do more to protect K-12 schools against hackers Democrats call on Education secretary to address 'stealthing' at federal level MORE regarding his legal authority to cancel student loan debt as progressives pressure him to take executive action on the issue.

White House chief of staff Ron KlainRon KlainNew variant raises questions about air travel mandates White House scrambles for safety on holiday parties The massive messaging miscues of all the president's men (and women) MORE said in an interview with Politico that Biden will examine a memo from Cardona and that he has not yet made a decision on whether he could take unilateral action to scrap some debt.

“He asked his secretary of Education, who’s just been on the job a few weeks, once he got on the job to have his department prepare a memo on the president’s legal authority, and hopefully we’ll see that in the next few weeks. And then he’ll look at that legal authority, he’ll look at the policy issues around that, and he’ll make a decision,” Klain said. 

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“He hasn’t made a decision on that either way. In fact, he hasn’t yet gotten the memos that he needs to start to focus on that decision.” 

White House press secretary Jen PsakiJen PsakiOvernight Health Care — Presented by March of Dimes — Biden's winter COVID-19 strategy Biden lays out multi-pronged plan to deal with evolving pandemic White House defends travel ban on African countries MORE also said in February that Biden would ask the Justice Department to “conduct a legal review of [Biden’s] authority to act by executive action.” 

Biden has come under pressure from liberal lawmakers and activists to take executive action to cancel up to $50,000 in student debt per borrower. The president has set his sights lower, saying he might target $10,000 in debt.

“I do think in this moment of economic pain and strain that we should be eliminating interest on the debts that are accumulated, No. 1. And No. 2, I'm prepared to write off the $10,000 debt,” he said in February

Advocates of canceling student debt by executive action say that Biden has the authority to do so under the Higher Education Act of 1965, which allowed the secretary of Education to back student loans. They also note that using legislating to cut the debt would require Republican buy-in, which appears unlikely. 

More than 40 million Americans are believed to have student debt.