The Democratic-led Congress pressured President Biden Thursday to unilaterally cancel up to $50,000 of federal student loan debt, with establishment liberals joining the party’s far-left “Squad” to demand quick debt relief.
Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer joined the left-leaning lawmakers to call in a resolution for the president to eliminate student debt for every federal borrower through executive action.
They said Mr. Biden can execute the “life-changing measure” on his own.
“This loan holds people back from buying cars, from going on vacations,” said Mr. Schumer, New York Democrat. “It would be a huge push into our economy.”
More than 90% of student borrowers have federal loans, not private loans.
The resolution does not include an income cap for borrowers eligible for debt cancellation. As recently as last year, Mr. Schumer said student debt should be erased only for those earning less than $125,000.
Conservative critics of the debt-relief plan said Mr. Schumer is making a hard left turn ahead of his reelection bid in 2022.
“Chuck Schumer joining this attempt to bail out wealthy college grads at the expense of those who did not go to college is a sure signal that he fears Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in a primary more than he wants to defend the country,” said Rick Manning, president of the conservative group Americans for Limited Government.
Economists said the resolution was unrealistic.
James Bennet, an economics professor at George Mason University, said politicians would struggle with where to stop the debt forgiveness as future students demand the same treatment.
“It opens a can of worms that is endless,” he said. “Anybody with any sense would run from this.”
Democrats introduced a similar resolution under former President Trump, who did not act on the requests. Mr. Trump did pause monthly payments on student loans to help lessen the economic distress of the pandemic shutdowns.
The pause on repayments is continuing under the Biden administration through September. On the campaign trail, Mr. Biden advocated canceling up to $10,000 of student loans but said Congress should do it with legislation.
Sen. Kevin Cramer, who sits on the Committee for Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, said Mr. Biden should resist calls to circumvent Congress.
“Offering to unilaterally forgive debt students chose to take on will only encourage others to needlessly rack up more loans while doing nothing to address the real inadequacies in our higher education system,” the North Dakota Republican said.
Two members of the “Squad” threw their weight behind the push for unilateral executive action, demanding Mr. Biden act fast and cut Republicans out of the decision making.
Rep. Ilhan Omar, Minnesota Democrat, said 45 million people are “shackled” by their student debt and Rep. Ayanna Pressley, Massachusetts Democrat, said it is a racial justice issue, arguing student debt disproportionately affects people of color.
The median Black student borrower owes 95% of their student debt even 20 years after beginning college, while White peers owe only 6%, according to a recent study noted in the resolution.
The resolution stated that the secretary of education has authority under the Higher Education Act of 1965 to “broadly cancel student debt,” urging Mr. Biden to begin the erasure.