Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerObama says US 'desperately needs' Biden legislation ahead of key votes Congress shows signs of movement on stalled Biden agenda Schumer gets shoutout, standing ovation from crowd at Tony Awards MORE (D-N.Y.), Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenIn defense of share buybacks Democrats urge Biden to go all in with agenda in limbo In Washington, the road almost never taken MORE (D-Mass.) and Rep. Ayanna PressleyAyanna PressleyHolding back on defensive systems for Israel could have dangerous consequences Warren, Bush offer bill to give HHS power to impose eviction moratorium Haitians stuck in Texas extend Biden's immigration woes MORE (D-Mass.) on Tuesday called on President BidenJoe BidenFord to bolster electric vehicle production in multi-billion dollar push Protesters demonstrate outside Manchin's houseboat over opposition to reconciliation package Alabama eyes using pandemic relief funds on prison system MORE to extend the pause on federal student loan payments and wipe out $50,000 per borrower.
The trio held a press conference Tuesday at the Capitol to push Biden toward renewing and dramatically expanding relief for millions of Americans who owe the federal government more than $1.6 trillion in college debt.
Schumer, Warren and Pressley have been boosting pressure on Biden to offer sweeping student loan forgiveness since his election last year. But the progressive leaders said Tuesday that Biden has an urgent responsibility to act quickly with federal protections set to expire at the end of September.
“These people live with a sword hanging over their heads. And every day that goes by that sword draws a little closer,” Warren said. “This is a matter of economic justice. It is a matter of racial justice. The president of the United States can remove this sword. The president can prevent this pain.”
Roughly 43 million Americans with federal student loans have been allowed to forgo payments since March 2020, when former President TrumpDonald TrumpJan. 6 committee chair says panel will issue a 'good number' of additional subpoenas Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by AM General — Pentagon officials prepare for grilling Biden nominates head of Africa CDC to lead global AIDS response MORE signed an order pausing debt payments and interest accrual. Biden has extended that pause twice since taking office, but has not said whether he will do so again before Sept. 30.
“To make borrowers repay their debts now would be unfair, would be harsh, and in many instances would be cruel. People were thrown off their stride by COVID. Give them a chance to recover,” Schumer said.
The majority leader didn’t specify how long the pause should be extended, but said Biden should “wait until at least spring” to restart payments.
The U.S. economy has recovered more than half of the jobs lost to the onset of the pandemic in March, but employment remains roughly 6.8 million below its pre-pandemic peak in February 2020. Pressley added that the dominance of the delta variant of COVID-19 had added to the urgency of extending several pandemic protections.
“These crises are layered,” Pressley said. “People have to remain safely housed. They should not be trying to decide between paying a student loan bill, or whether or not they should be paying rent to remain safely housed while we are still in the midst of a pandemic.”
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.