A group of House Democrats has given President Biden’s Education Department a deadline. They want to know by October 22 if the department has determined the legality of Biden cancelling at least $50,000 in student debt per borrower.
Six months ago, Biden asked Education Secretary Miguel Cardona to prepare a memo on this legal authority. Friday’s letter from 14 Democrats led by Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar, including New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley, called on Cardona to make the memo public by October 22.
They wrote that with the pandemic pause on student-loan payments lifting in February, borrowers are “anxiously awaiting the administration’s actions.”
“The time has come to release the memo and cancel student debt,” they wrote in the letter obtained by Politico.
“Doing so will benefit every citizen and support our communities,” they added. “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.”
The Democrats also noted the student-loan companies that are ending their services this year, requiring over 16 million borrowers to be transferred to new servicers. They wrote that restarting payments during those transfers, while remaining “silent” on debt cancellation, “will result in unnecessary confusion and harm.”
This letter comes after White House Press Sec. Jen Psaki was asked during a Monday press briefing where the memos on student-debt cancellation stood. She did not have any update while noting Biden would support legislation brought to him from Congress to cancel student debt.
But Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a leader in broad student-debt cancellation, previously said that 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 went on: “The president can do this, and I very much hope that he will.”
In February, Psaki said Biden would ask the Justice Department to review his authority to use executive action to cancel student debt, but it’s unclear when exactly the department began that review. However, White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain told Politico in April that Biden had also asked Cardona to create a memo on the president’s legal authority to forgive $50,000 in student loans per person.
He said Biden “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.” Psaki on Monday did not comment on a reason for what might be holding up those memos.
Biden so far has canceled student debt for targeted groups of people, but Democrats remain persistent that broad student-debt cancellation is vital to address the $1.7 trillion student-debt crisis falling on the shoulders of 45 million Americans.
“Even during times of economic normalcy, student debt is a policy failure,” the Democrats wrote. “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.”