There’s not a ton to make of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s (D-NY) remarks from the Senate floor today — when he suggested that President Biden is “moving in our direction” on student debt forgiveness.
But he could be signaling a few things.
Here’s Schumer’s full quote:
“I think the President is moving in our direction. My talks with him and his staff have been very fruitful over the last little while. And I am hopeful that he will do the right thing. We’re getting closer.”
Schumer has been advocating for the Biden administration to forgive up to $50,000 per borrower in student loan debt for more than six months, urging the White House last fall to make the move via executive action. When he says the President is “moving in our direction” it could mean just that — Biden is considering an executive order to cancel $50,000 of student loan debt for each federal borrower.
But there’s also a chance Schumer doesn’t know much more than the rest of us and is using his Senate floor pulpit to pressure the Biden administration to embrace his previous proposal in light of recent news that the President is weighing his options on the student debt front more seriously than he has in the past. After all, Schumer is aware that the ball is entirely in Biden’s court. With the current makeup of the Senate, there’s no legislative course for Congress to get this done before the Midterms, at least while the filibuster remains intact.
But it’s an area where Schumer, some Biden aides and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) are at odds. The Speaker has maintained for some time that the White House doesn’t have the authority to cancel this much student debt without the help of Congress. However, supporters of student loan forgiveness argue that the Higher Education Act of 1965 gives the executive branch, specifically the Department of Education, the authority to make changes to student debt at this level. Regardless, any such executive action will almost undoubtedly be met with some form of legal challenge(s).
Schumer has been pressing the Biden administration to take action on debt relief for months, and has been increasingly pushing the issue in recent days and weeks, specifically highlighting the disproportionate burden student debt in the U.S. places on Black and brown student borrowers. So while he’s likely been in talks with the White House about the issue, the floor remarks could mean nothing beyond an attempt to signal that his staff and the White House staff have been speaking on the topic while it’s front of mind.
And it is. The Biden administration pushed back the ongoing COVID-19-related federal student loan moratorium to Aug. 31. The timing feeds into theories that the Biden administration might plan to use this issue to revitalize Democratic enthusiasm and voter turnout ahead of the Midterms.
And just yesterday CBS and the Washington Post both reported that the President held a lengthy meeting with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus on Monday, reportedly expressing openness to cancelling tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt in the coming months, perhaps through executive action.
On the campaign trail, Biden promised to forgive at least $10,000 of federal student loans per borrower.
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