- Biden is looking into his “legal authority” to cancel student-loan debt, his chief of staff said.
- Ron Klain said Biden had asked Education Secretary Miguel Cardona to create a memo on the subject.
- He said the memo would look into both forgiving student-loan debt and canceling it.
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President Joe Biden is looking into his “legal authority” to cancel student-loan debt up to $50,000, the White House chief of staff, Ron Klain, said in a Politico Playbook interview on Thursday.
Klain told Ryan Lizza, Politico’s chief Washington correspondent, that Biden had asked Education Secretary Miguel Cardona to create a memo on the president’s legal authority to forgive student loans.
He wants the memo to look into both forgiving student loans and canceling debt up to $50,000, Klain said.
Biden will “look at that legal authority,” Klain said. “He’ll look at the policy issues around that, and he’ll make a decision. He hasn’t made a decision on that either way, and, in fact, he hasn’t yet gotten the memos that he needs to start to focus on that decision.”
The $50,000 amount is significant because it’s what Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts campaigned on and what Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has since endorsed. Biden campaigned on a $10,000-per-person cancellation. Warren and Schumer have kept the pressure on Biden to look into the higher amount, though he has resisted.
In February, the White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, said Biden would ask the Justice Department to review his authority to cancel $50,000 in debt. The president has separately said he would support legislation brought to him on the topic.
Warren has said she doesn’t want to go the legislative route. “We have a lot on our plate, including moving to infrastructure and all kinds of other things,” she said on a press call last month. “I have legislation to do it, but to me, that’s just not a reason to hold off. The president can do this, and I very much hope that he will.”
Schumer has dismissed Biden’s rhetoric on not taking executive action. “If it’s OK legally to do a small amount, it’s OK legally to do a larger amount,” Schumer said in a press call.
Biden’s Education Department has been addressing the $1.7 trillion student-debt crisis in the country. On March 18, Cardona canceled debt for about 72,000 borrowers who were defrauded by for-profit schools, and on Monday, he canceled debt for over 41,000 borrowers with total and permanent disabilities. Cardona has also expanded the pause on student-debt payments through September to 1.14 million borrowers with private loans under the Federal Family Education Loan Program.
Biden has not provided a deadline for the review of his executive powers to cancel debt, but progressive lawmakers are adamant that the issue requires attention.
Schumer said on Monday, “We’re asking you, email, call, write President Joseph Robinette Biden and tell him you want this done.”