Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerBiden discusses agenda with Schumer, Pelosi ahead of pivotal week CEOs urge Congress to raise debt limit or risk 'avoidable crisis' If .5 trillion 'infrastructure' bill fails, it's bye-bye for an increasingly unpopular Biden MORE (D-N.Y.), Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenFederal Reserve officials' stock trading sparks ethics review Manchin keeps Washington guessing on what he wants Warren, Daines introduce bill honoring 13 killed in Kabul attack MORE (D-Mass.) and Rep. Ayanna PressleyAyanna PressleyHaitians stuck in Texas extend Biden's immigration woes Advocates 'in utter disbelief' after Biden resumes Haitian repatriations Democratic bill would force Fed to defund fossil fuels MORE (D-Mass.) on Tuesday called on President BidenJoe BidenHouse Democrat threatens to vote against party's spending bill if HBCUs don't get more federal aid Overnight Defense & National Security — The Pentagon's deadly mistake Haitians stuck in Texas extend Biden's immigration woes 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 TrumpOvernight Defense & National Security — The Pentagon's deadly mistake Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Interior returns BLM HQ to Washington France pulls ambassadors to US, Australia in protest of submarine deal 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.