President Joe Biden said Thursday he was “considering” taking steps to write off some student loan debt, with a decision coming as soon as “within the next two weeks.”
“I’m looking to face debt reduction,” the president told reporters after announcing a congressional request for more aid to Ukraine.
Biden campaigned on a pledge to forgive up to $10,000 for the 43 million student borrowers nationwide. Although it has yet to deliver on that promise, it has taken several steps to provide student loan relief, including extending a pause on payments due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A number of prominent Democrats, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., and former presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., have urged Biden to use his authority to cancel up to $50,000 of student debt per borrower. .
Biden said Thursday that he was “not considering a $50,000 debt reduction.”
Asked later in the day, the top White House spokeswoman didn’t give a specific number but said the president was considering a figure higher than $10,000.
“He would be happy to sign any bill or bill that came to his desk that would forgive $10,000 in student loans,” publicist Jen Psaki said. “It could be more than that. We’re looking into that.”
She added that a decision could also come much sooner than the end of August, when a current freeze on loan repayments is set to expire. But any forgiveness would likely come at least before that deadline.
Biden has already forgiven more than $17 billion in student loan debt, for more than 700,000 borrowers by expanding existing loan forgiveness programs for public sector workers, permanently disabled borrowers and people defrauded by for-profit colleges.
The president has faced repeated calls from fellow Democrats, as well as advocates and student borrowers, to write off some student debt — especially in the face of declining approval numbers ahead of crucial midterms. of 2022, which will determine control of Congress for the remainder of Biden’s first term.
“I’m looking closely at whether or not there will be additional debt forgiveness,” Biden said Thursday. “And I’ll have an answer on that in the next few weeks.”
One such call came in the form of a meeting with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus earlier this week, who urged the president to take executive action to cancel some student debt.
Rep. Nanette Barragán, D-Calif., who attended the meeting, told CNN this week that Biden was “positive” about such an idea, but made no specific commitments.
“The president never mentioned an amount or said he was going to wipe out all student debt,” fellow California Democratic Rep. Tony Cardenas told CBS News, who was first to report on the fund. the meeting. “He dialogued with us about the difference between young people who go to public schools and private schools and we, the members of the CHC, said that he should focus on both. And he said: ‘Okay , Good to know’.”
Cardenas told the outlet he urged Biden to take executive action; in response, he recalled, Biden “smiled and said, ‘You’re going to like what I’m doing on this, I’m looking to do something on this and I think you’re going to like what I’m doing. “”
Republicans strongly oppose canceling student debt and some have even recently introduced legislation in the Senate to stop Biden from doing so.
The bill, known as the Stop Reckless Student Loan Actions Act of 2022, “would prohibit the President from canceling outstanding federal student loan obligations due to a national emergency.” The pause in federal student loan repayments was first put in place in 2020 by then-President Donald Trump, and has been extended several times under President Biden’s administration, with payments set to resume. after August 31.
“As Americans continue to return to the workforce more than two years since the start of the pandemic, it’s time for borrowers to resume paying off student debt,” wrote Minority Sen. John Thune, RS.D. ., in a press release. “Taxpayers and working families should not be responsible for continuing to bear the costs associated with this suspension of reimbursement.”
“The Biden administration continues to call for a return to normalcy post-pandemic, while simultaneously extending emergency relief programs like the student loan repayment freeze,” said North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr. “They can’t have it both ways. The resumption of student loan repayments is long overdue, especially in today’s dynamic labor market.”
“While debt relief can help a lot today, it almost certainly means more expensive education for students tomorrow,” Patrick Hedger, executive director of the Taxpayers Protection Alliance, said in a statement Thursday. “We cannot reward the waste in higher education that we see today or give prospective students false hope of similar debt relief that could encourage reckless additional borrowing.”