It’s only been a little over a month since Joe Biden became president of the United States, but there’s one issue that seems to have bubbled to the top when it comes to conflict with his fellow Democrats: the sticky proposition of student loan forgiveness.
Progressives — including Biden’s former presidential primary opponent Sen. Elizabeth Warren — continue to lobby for loan forgiveness up to $50,000 per borrower, something they say Biden could accomplish via executive order. “Even if you don’t have student loan debt, you will be helped by seeing student loan debt cancelled, because it will help our economy and it invests in our future,” Warren told a virtual town hall audience last week.
But Biden isn’t biting, telling an audience member at his recent CNN Town Hall that “I will not make that happen.” The president, saying he feels Congress is the appropriate venue for this issue, has instead advocated for legislation that would promise a more modest $10,000 in loan forgiveness.
It’s a stance that doesn’t sit well with the left wing of his party, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who at a news conference earlier this month declared that, “We are not going to let up … until $50,000 of debt is forgiven for every student in the country.” Closer to home, U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley has also advocated heavily for the move, calling it a racial and economic justice issue.
“Policies like redlining and predatory lending … systematically denied Black and Latinx families the opportunity to build wealth, forcing our families to take on greater rates of student debt,” Pressley said last week said during a virtual press conference organized by the American Federation of Teachers, where she also revealed that she herself had defaulted on her student loans at one point.
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, meanwhile, is taking a similar tack in leading 17 Democratic state attorneys general to lobby for the $50,000 in debt forgiveness. “This measure would help remedy predatory practices that have disproportionately harmed people of color, boost our struggling economy, and create a viable future for millions of Americans,” Healey wrote in a letter to congressional leaders Friday.
Still, with most Republicans opposing the move, and the concept drawing criticism from some who painstakingly managed to pay their own student loans, or made difficult decisions in order to avoid incurring them, it remains a polarizing issue.
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