Leading Democrats pushed back on President Joe Biden after he rejected a growing push to cancel up to $50,000 in student debt.
Biden was asked about his plan to address the student debt crisis during a CNN town hall on Tuesday.
“We need student loan forgiveness beyond the potential $10,000 your administration has proposed,” an audience member said. “We need at least a $50,000 minimum. What will you do to make that happen?”
“I will not make that happen,” Biden replied, arguing that it’s important whether someone went to a private university or public university.”
Biden argued that funding to forgive up to $50,000 in debt could instead be used to pay for early childhood education, while adding that community college should be free for all and state universities should be free for families earning up to $125,000.
“I'm prepared to write off the $10,000 debt, but not $50,000,” he said. “Because I don't think I have the authority to do it by signing with a pen.”
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and former Biden primary foe Elizabeth Warren introduced a resolution earlier this month alongside dozens of Democratic lawmakers arguing that Biden has the authority to erase student debt by executive order under the Higher Education Act, which gives the secretary of education the authority to "compromise, waive, or release any right, title, claim, lien, or demand, however acquired, including any equity or any right of redemption."
The Democrats noted that former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos used the law to suspend interest on debt during the pandemic last year.
"During a time of historic and overlapping crises, which are disproportionately impacting communities of color, we must do everything in our power to deliver real relief to the American people, lift up our struggling economy and close the racial wealth gap," Schumer said earlier this month. "Democrats are committed to big, bold action, and this resolution to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt is one of the strongest steps the president can take to achieve these goals."
AOC rejects Biden’s argument:
"Why cares what school someone went to?" argued New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. "Entire generations of working class kids were encouraged to go into more debt under the guise of elitism. This is wrong."
“Nowhere does it say we must trade-off early childhood education for student loan forgiveness. We can have both,” she added. “The case against student loan forgiveness is looking shakier by the day. We’ve got the *Senate Majority Leader* on board to forgive $50k. Biden’s holding back, but many of the arguments against it just don’t hold water on close inspection.”
Warren and Schumer also pushed back, arguing that Obama and Trump used executive authority to cancel student debt.
“The Biden administration has said it is reviewing options for cancelling up to $50,000 in student debt by executive action, and we are confident they will agree with the standards Obama and Trump used as well as leading legal experts who have concluded that the administration has broad authority to deliver much-needed relief to millions of Americans,” they said.
“It’s time to act. We will keep fighting.”