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Schumer, Warren push for $50K in student debt cancellation after Biden balks

Schumer, Warren push for $50K in student debt cancellation after Biden balks
© Greg Nash

Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerDemocrats urge Biden to extend moratorium on student loan payments White House draws ire of progressives amid voting rights defeat Murkowski to vote 'no' on voting rights bill MORE (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenSchumer vows to advance two-pronged infrastructure plan next month Overnight Health Care: CDC panel meets on vaccines and heart inflammation | Health officials emphasize vaccine is safe | Judge rules Missouri doesn't have to implement Medicaid expansion Democrats urge Biden to extend moratorium on student loan payments MORE (D-Mass.) are pressing President BidenJoe BidenSchumer vows to advance two-pronged infrastructure plan next month Biden appoints veteran housing, banking regulator as acting FHFA chief Iran claims U.S. to lift all oil sanctions but State Department says 'nothing is agreed' MORE to use his executive power to cancel $50,000 per borrower in student debt after he balked at the idea at a Tuesday town hall.

“An ocean of student loan debt is holding back 43 million borrowers and disproportionately weighing down Black and Brown Americans. Cancelling $50,000 in federal student loan debt will help close the racial wealth gap, benefit the 40% of borrowers who do not have a college degree, and help stimulate the economy. It’s time to act. We will keep fighting,” Warren and Schumer said in a joint statement on Wednesday.

The Senate Democrats have been outspoken advocates for the cancellation, repeatedly pushing Biden to agree and introducing legislation earlier this month calling on him to forgive up to $50,000 in federally held student debt. That bill is not legally binding but would represent a formal congressional endorsement of the idea.

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The renewed pressure campaign comes a day after Biden balked at forgiving that amount of student debt, saying he does not have the power to do so by executive action. 

"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, but not [$50,000]," Biden told voters in Wisconsin, saying he doesn't believe it can be done with presidential action.

The White House has previously said that the Office of Legal Counsel was reviewing whether the president could unilaterally cancel federal student loan debt and that he would sign legislation forgiving $10,000 of student loan debt if Congress passed a bill. 

Schumer and Warren dismissed concerns that Biden doesn’t have the power to cancel the debt with a stroke of his pen, noting that former Presidents Obama and Trump used executive order to scrap some debt. 

“Presidents Obama and Trump used their executive authority to cancel student loan debt. The Biden administration has said it is reviewing options for cancelling up to $50,000 in student debt by executive action, and we are confident they will agree with the standards Obama and Trump used as well as leading legal experts who have concluded that the administration has broad authority to immediately deliver much-needed relief to millions of Americans,” they said.