More than 80 congressional Democrats asked President Joe Biden to release a long-overdue White House memo outlining whether the president has the executive authority to cancel federal student loan debt.
The House and Senate coalition of progressives has been pressuring Biden to cancel $50,000 in federal student loan debt since he was sworn into office, framing it not only as a way to relieve economic stress that disproportionately impacts low-income Black and Hispanic borrowers but also as a responsibility to voters of color who were crucial to his election. The lawmakers argue that the executive authority Biden is currently using to cancel the interest owed on all federally held student loans – Section 432 of the Higher Education Act – is the same authority he could use to provide wide-scale student debt cancellation.
“Publicly releasing the memo outlining your existing authority on canceling student debt and broadly doing so is crucial to making a meaningful difference in the lives of current students, borrowers, and their families,” they wrote. “It has been widely reported that the Department of Education has had this memo since April 5, 2021 after being directed to draft it.”
Indeed, White House chief of staff Ron Klain said last April that the memo would be made public in a matter of weeks, and many of the same members of Congress who signed on to Wednesday’s letter previously wrote to Biden and Education Secretary Miguel Cardona asking them to release the memo to the public by Oct. 22.
“We urge you to use every tool at your disposal to deliver relief to the millions of families inspired by your proposal to make a debt-free college degree within their reach by eliminating up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt for all families before payments resume.”
The renewed ask follows a failed attempt by Democrats to pass voting rights legislation to curb GOP-controlled states from enacting laws that make voting more difficult for low-income individuals and people of color. It also comes during a moment of uncertainty over the president’s Build Back Better package – the $1.75 trillion proposal to address major progressive priorities like climate change and universal child care and preschool.