With just under 100 days until federal student loan payments resume for millions of Americans, members of the Massachusetts Congressional delegation are among the lawmakers and advocates pushing for President Joe Biden to wipe out student debt.
Speaking at a virtual town hall hosted by the groups NextGen America, Student Debt Crisis Center, Public Citizen and MoveOn, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Ayanna Pressley were among those calling on President Joe Biden Thursday to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student debt for individuals before payments restart on May 1.
Warren said student loan debt holds back the economy and that restarting payments for loans could throw millions of famlies off a financial cliff.
"Payments have been on pause now for two years," she said. "Once the pause ends, more than a quarter of borrowers expect at least one-third of their income will have to go towards servicing their student loans."
Pressley said the White House made a policy choice to pause loan repayments during the pandemic.
"Now in less than 100 days, the Biden administration has another opportunity to stand on the right side of history and to cancel $50,000 in student debt with the mere stroke of a pen," she said. "Doing so is one of the most effective ways to provide sweeping relief to millions of workers and families across this nation. Doing so would repair generations of hurt and harm imposed on Black and brown families and help reduce the racial wealth gap. Doing so would boost our economy and set the groundwork for a just, robust and equitable recovery. And, perhaps most importantly, canceling student debt would not require one single vote in Congress."
Both Warren and Pressley are among a group of Democrats pushing the White House to release a memo about the President's power to enact sweeping student loan debt cancelation.
Biden has expressed doubts about his power to do so, but other Democrats say it's within the reach of the executive branch. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who also spoke at the town hall, said erasing student loan debt wouldn't come with the difficulties of passing legislation.
"The President can do it with the flick of a pen," he said. "All he has to do is sign an executive order. He doesn't need a single Senator, he doesn't need a single Congress member on his side. He just has to do it."
Democrats plan to keep putting pressure on Biden to make a dramatic move on student debt, .
"We already know that President Biden has the authority to act," Warren said. "How do we know? Because President Obama did it, because President Trump did it and President Biden himself has already canceled$15 billion in student loan debt. They have all of these precedents, have the authority, we just need them to move."