Ilhan Omar to Biden: 'Deliver on your promise to cancel student debt'

Rep. Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarDemocratic caucus chairs call for Boebert committee assignment removal War of words escalates in House Mace chief of staff steps down during turbulent week MORE (D-Minn.) called on 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 to release to the public information he previously requested 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. 

The call came in a letter led by Omar addressed to Biden and Cardona on Friday.

Omar and other lawmakers asked that the information be released to the public by Oct. 22, saying “the time has come” since 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 months earlier that the administration was looking to produce a memo on Biden’s legal authority on the issue in a matter of weeks. 

ADVERTISEMENT

“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,” Klain said in an interview at the time. “And then he’ll look at that legal authority, he’ll look at the policy issues around that, and he’ll make a decision.” 

In their letter, the lawmakers note the clock has been ticking “with over six months having passed since that interview” and only four months until a moratorium on student debt payments instated during the pandemic is expected to expire. 

"The time has come to release the memo and deliver on your promise to cancel student debt," the lawmakers wrote. 

Since coming into office, Biden’s administration has canceled billions in student debt, but only in certain cases. For instance, $1.1 billion in debt was canceled recently for borrowers who attended the now-defunct ITT under the current "borrower defense to repayment" program after officials said the institution misled students about grant aid.

During his campaign, Biden said he would eliminate student debt for borrowers who come from a family making less than $125,000 and went to a public university. 

ADVERTISEMENT

“You get all these degrees and you get all this debt, and you get in a position where you can’t get a job because no one is hiring, or they’re hiring at very low wages ... I’m going to eliminate your student debt if you come from a family [making less] than $125,000 and went to a public university,” he said in October 2020.

Biden has also previously said he was “prepared to write off $10,000” in student loan debt, though many in his party have called on him to cancel up to $50,000.

But there are disagreements within his party on whether he has the power to forgive federal student loans. 

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiCongress averts shutdown after vaccine mandate fight On The Money — Congress races to keep the lights on House sets up Senate shutdown showdown MORE (D-Calif.) said in July that Biden doesn’t have the legal authority to unilaterally cancel federal student loans.

“He can postpone, he can delay, but he does not have that power,” Pelosi has said. “That would best be an act of Congress.”

ADVERTISEMENT

But a number of progressives have pushed back on that notion, insisting the power to do so also falls squarely within Biden’s authority.

“This authority is already being put to use, as it is currently being used to cancel the interest owed on all federally-held student loans. Now it is time for you to honor your campaign pledge and use this authority to cancel all student debt,” lawmakers wrote in their letter to Biden on Friday.

“With a single signature, you can improve the economy, create new jobs, transform the lives of 45 million Americans, narrow the racial wealth gap, and maintain the trust of voters,” they wrote.

“Even during times of economic normalcy, student debt is a policy failure,” they added. “Turning student debt payments back on in the middle of a pandemic is an act of policy failure. Cancelling student debt is both the morally right and economically sound thing to do.”

Omar was joined by more than a dozen Democratic colleagues in signing the letter.

They include Reps. Earl BlumenauerEarl BlumenauerOverdue progress on costs of trade to workers, firms, farmers and communities Framing our future beyond the climate crisis Reforming marijuana laws before the holidays: A three-pronged approach MORE (Ore.), Jamaal Bowman (N.Y.), Cori BushCori BushHouse progressives urge Garland to intervene in ex-environmental lawyer Steven Donziger's case The real 'threat to democracy'? Pols who polarize us with their opinions For Democrats it should be about votes, not megaphones MORE (Mo.), Yvette ClarkeYvette Diane ClarkeSenators look to defense bill to move cybersecurity measures State and local officials celebrate passage of infrastructure bill with billion in cyber funds The developed world should help countries on the frontlines of the climate crisis MORE (N.Y.),  Danny K. Davis (Ill.), Adriano EspaillatAdriano de Jesus Espaillat Cabral91 House Dems call on Senate to expand immigration protections in Biden spending bill Historic immigration reform included in House-passed spending bill Immigrant advocates release 'Pathway to Citizenship in Five Steps' MORE (N.Y.), Jesús G. "Chuy" García (Ill.), Jimmy GomezJimmy GomezProposed California maps put incumbents in jeopardy House Democrats brush off Manchin Lack of trust mangles Democratic efforts to reach deal MORE (Calif.), Al GreenAlexander (Al) N. GreenIlhan Omar to Biden: 'Deliver on your promise to cancel student debt' Deportations of Haitians spark concerns over environmental refugees The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Gears begin to shift in Congress on stalled Biden agenda MORE (Texas), Jahana HayesJahana HayesHouse GOP campaign arm releases ad hitting Democrats on IRS bank-reporting proposal Ilhan Omar to Biden: 'Deliver on your promise to cancel student debt' Katie Hill launches effort to protect Democratic majority in House MORE (Conn.), Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalDemocratic caucus chairs call for Boebert committee assignment removal Five reasons for Biden, GOP to be thankful this season 91 House Dems call on Senate to expand immigration protections in Biden spending bill MORE (Wash.), Carolyn B. Maloney (N.Y.), Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezWar of words escalates in House McCarthy faces headaches from far-right House GOP Noncitizen voting doesn't pass this test MORE (N.Y.), Ayanna PressleyAyanna PressleyMcCarthy faces headaches from far-right House GOP House progressives urge Garland to intervene in ex-environmental lawyer Steven Donziger's case GOP eyes booting Democrats from seats if House flips MORE (Mass.) and Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibPelosi: Democrats can't allow 'indecent' Boebert comments to stand Omar, Muslim Democrats decry Islamophobia amid death threats September video shows Boebert made earlier comments suggesting Omar was a terrorist MORE (Mich.), and Del. Eleanor Holmes NortonEleanor Holmes NortonFAA levies 5K in fines against unruly passengers this year Democrats press DOJ to prosecute unruly air passengers Ilhan Omar to Biden: 'Deliver on your promise to cancel student debt' MORE (D.C.),