Warren pledges to cancel most student loan debt without Congress

Presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenSanders joins Biden atop 2020 Democratic field: poll The Hill's Morning Report - Trump trial begins with clashes, concessions Hillary Clinton tears open wound with her attack on Sanders MORE (D-Mass.) on Tuesday pledged to cancel student loan debt for 42 million Americans on the first day of her presidency by bypassing Congress and using an existing authority from the Department of Education.

Warren had already unveiled a plan to cancel up to $50,000 in loans for about 95 percent of student borrowers, but her plan, unveiled in a Medium post on Tuesday, details for the first time how she would accomplish it. 

The presidential candidate said she would use the Higher Education Act, which gives the Department of Education authority "to modify, compromise, waive, or release student loans."

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"We’re facing a student loan crisis -- one that’s holding back our economy and crushing millions of American families," she said in her post.

"The Department of Education already has broad legal authority to cancel student debt, and we can’t afford to wait for Congress to act," she added. "So I will start to use existing laws on day one of my presidency to implement my student loan debt cancellation plan that offers relief to 42 million Americans."

Warren also said she would use "all available tools to address racial disparities in higher education, crack down on for-profit institutions, and eliminate predatory lending."

Warren's plan comes just hours before a primary debate in Iowa that risks being overtaken by her statement confirming a CNN report that her chief progressive rival, Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSanders joins Biden atop 2020 Democratic field: poll The Hill's Morning Report - Trump trial begins with clashes, concessions Trump on Clinton's Sanders comments: 'She's the one that people don't like' MORE (I-Vt.), had told her in a private meeting in 2018 that a woman could not win the White House. 

Sanders has strongly denied making that comment.

Student loan forgiveness has been embraced by most Democratic presidential contenders, though significant differences remain on the specifics, with moderates such as former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegSanders joins Biden atop 2020 Democratic field: poll The Hill's Morning Report - Trump trial begins with clashes, concessions Hillary Clinton tears open wound with her attack on Sanders MORE proposing more limited plans.