On The Money: Biden faces backlash from left on student loans | Where things stand on the COVID-19 relief measure | Retail sales rebound

On The Money: Biden faces backlash from left on student loans | Where things stand on the COVID-19 relief measure | Retail sales rebound

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THE BIG DEAL—Biden faces backlash from left on student loans: President BidenJoe BidenBiden 'disappointed' in Senate parliamentarian ruling but 'respects' decision Taylor Swift celebrates House passage of Equality Act Donald Trump Jr. calls Bruce Springsteen's dropped charges 'liberal privilege' MORE is facing intense backlash from progressive lawmakers after saying Tuesday he would not sign a measure to forgive up to $50,000 in federally held student debt per borrower through executive action.

“I will not make that happen,” Biden said when asked about whether he would support $50,000 in student loan forgiveness. The Hill’s Brett Samuels and I have more about the fallout here.

The backlash: Biden’s public, unequivocal refusal to go as far as progressives want stirred up the president’s first big fight with the left since taking office.

“An ocean of student loan debt is holding back 43 million borrowers and disproportionately weighing down Black and Brown Americans,” said Schumer and Warren in a joint statement Wednesday. “It’s time to act. We will keep fighting,” they said.

While Biden’s refusal to aim higher on debt relief disappointed progressives, his justification enraged them.


“Who cares what school someone went to? Entire generations of working-class kids were encouraged to go into more debt under the guise of elitism. This is wrong,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted Wednesday. “Nowhere does it say we must trade-off early childhood education for student loan forgiveness. We can have both.”

What comes next: White House press secretary Jen PsakiJen PsakiBiden 'disappointed' in Senate parliamentarian ruling but 'respects' decision CORRECTED: Overnight Defense: COVID-19 stymies effort to study sexual assault at military academies | Biden, Saudi king speak ahead of Khashoggi report The Memo: Biden faces first major setback as Tanden teeters MORE said Wednesday the previously announced legal review of Biden’s debt forgiveness authority wouldn’t happen until after Attorney General-designate Merrick GarlandMerrick Brian GarlandThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by The AIDS Institute - Finger-pointing on Capitol riot; GOP balks at Biden relief plan McConnell backs Garland for attorney general Biden can redeem checkered past and regenerate hope for millions with criminal justice reform MORE has been confirmed by the Senate, raising the prospect of further delays on a debt wipeout.

Psaki also suggested Wednesday that Biden would limit debt relief based on a borrower’s income and educational attainment — a far cry from the bigger, unilateral wipe out supported by progressives.

LEADING THE DAY - Where things stand on the COVID-19 relief measure: Democrats are aiming to move quickly on a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package and give President Biden a legislative accomplishment early in his tenure. A multitude of House committees advanced portions of the bill last week, and House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerPelosi: Dems want commission focused on Capitol mob attack Democrats call for relief package to waive taxes on unemployment benefits George Floyd police reform bill reintroduced in House MORE (D-Md.) told colleagues on Tuesday that the plan is for the bill to be considered on the House floor next week. But the bigger challenge will be when the work shifts over to the Senate. Here’s the latest on the status on some of the main portions of the relief package:

Read more here about these and other portions of the relief measure.


The push for more economic aid comes with a clearer picture about how important it still is to struggling households. Retail sales surged 5.3 percent in January as federal stimulus and economic relief measures fueled a sharp rebound in consumer spending, according to data released Wednesday by the Commerce Department.

  • Spending on retail goods and food services rose last month after a December decrease of 1 percent, thanks in large part to the second round of direct payments and the renewal of expanded unemployment benefits. 
  • The January increase came after retail sales fell by 1 percent in December, according to revised figures released Wednesday.

What it tells us: “The January data suggest that the picture is improving,” said Cailin Birch, global economist at The Economist Intelligence Unit, in a Wednesday analysis. 

“The stopgap aid bill that was passed by Congress in the final days of 2020, together with the likelihood of a sizeable economic relief package from the Biden administration before end-March, are likely to be feeding into household confidence, supporting spending.”

I break down the report here.


  • Federal Reserve Governor Lael Brainard gives a speech on climate change at 8 a.m.
  • The Senate Banking Committee holds a hearing entitled “The Coronavirus Crisis: Paving the Way to An Equitable Recovery” at 11 a.m.
  • The House Financial Services Committee holds a hearing entitled “Game Stopped? Who Wins and Loses When Short Sellers, Social Media, and Retail Investors Collide at 12 p.m.
  • A House Ways and Means subcommittee holds a hearing on free tax preparation services during the pandemic at 2 p.m.



  • Facebook said Wednesday it will restrict news content in Australia over a proposed law that would require tech giants to pay publishers for it. 
  • Epic Games, the developer behind the popular Fortnite app, expanded its fight against Apple through an antitrust complaint filed with the European Union on Tuesday.