Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Corporate gatekeepers and big tech monopolists are making it more difficult than ever for independent media to survive. Please chip in today.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speaks at a rally

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) speaks during an event outside Union Station on June 16, 2021 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

'He Needs to Step Up': Ocasio-Cortez Urges New Student Debt Relief From Biden

Advocates should "organize and prepare actions now," months before student loan payments are set to begin again.

Julia Conley

Hours after President Joe Biden called on Democrats to support a social spending package drastically scaled back from what progressives have pushed for, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez signaled that the party's left wing should continue pressuring the White House to deliver far-reaching initiatives that will benefit working people—namely, student debt relief.

"Now that his agenda is thinly sliced he needs to step up his executive action game and show his commitment to [delivering] for people."

The New York Democrat posted about the issue Thursday night on her Instagram account, saying advocates for debt relief—many of whom are among the 45 million student borrowers who owe a collective $1.73 trillion—must "bring the heat on Biden to cancel student loans."
"He doesn't need [Sen. Joe] Manchin's permission for that," said Ocasio-Cortez, referring to the corporate Democrat from West Virginia whose objections to investing in lower- and middle-class families contributed to the elimination of paid family leave, a clean power program, reforms to Medicare, and other provisions.
"Now that his agenda is thinly sliced he needs to step up his executive action game and show his commitment to [delivering] for people," she added.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez posted on her Instagram account about student loan debt.
Progressives in Congress have spent months calling on Biden to completely or partially cancel student loan debt, but as Common Dreams reported last week, the U.S. Department of Education is preparing to restart monthly payments in February 2022, after a moratorium that was extended by the president expires.
Legal experts have confirmed that the Biden administration has the authority under Section 432(a) of the Higher Education Act to cancel student debt. The law states that the education secretary has the authority to modify loan terms and "enforce, pay, compromise, waive, or release any right, title, claim, lien, or demand, however acquired, including any equity or any right of redemption."
The Education Department said in April that it was examining whether it could cancel student debt beyond the $11.5 billion it has already canceled for certain students, like those defrauded by for-profit institutions, and Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) earlier this month demanded to know the status of the administration's investigation of the issue. This week, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said only that "conversations are continuing" regarding broad cancelation.
Three progressive Massachusetts Democrats—Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey and Rep. Ayanna Pressley—released a report Thursday showing that efforts to cancel student debt for public servants have resulted in "bureaucratic torture" for borrowers, with 98% of applicants to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program due to "major structural flaws."
"[President Biden] can and must cancel student debt to bring immediate relief," said Pressley on Friday.
A major overhaul to the PSLF program that's planned by the administration "will be a huge help to public servants," said Warren, adding, "to really fix this broken system, [President Biden] should cancel student debt."
Ocasio-Cortez urged advocates to "organize and prepare actions now," months ahead of the end of the student loan repayment moratorium.
"The showdown will be in late January when payments are 'supposed' to kick back up," said the congresswoman.

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Peace Advocates Sound Warnings as Progressive Lawmakers Go All-In for $40 Billion Ukraine War Package

"Russia's invasion of Ukraine must be condemned," says one activist. "But the administration has been telegraphing for weeks that its war aims now go well beyond defending Ukraine."

Brett Wilkins ·

Oklahoma Lawmakers Pass Strictest US Abortion Ban While Roe Still Stands

Reproductive rights supporters vowed to fight against the ban that begins at fertilization and, like legislation in Texas, "creates a bounty-hunting scheme" for enforcement.

Jessica Corbett ·

Judy Blume, Mo Willems Among 1,300 Children's Authors to Condemn 'Wave of Book Suppression'

"Reading stories that reflect the diversity of our world builds empathy and respect for everyone's humanity."

Kenny Stancil ·

Now Do Windfall Tax, Say Climate Groups After Passage of Big Oil Price Gouging Bill

"Voters will reward politicians who stand up for people, not polluters," said one campaigner, "and taxing windfall profits is wildly popular in every part of the country."

Brett Wilkins ·

Ocasio-Cortez: Maloney Should Quit DCCC Post If He Runs Against Mondaire Jones

"It's completely inappropriate" for Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney to be in charge of the House Democrats' campaign arm "if he's going to challenge another member," said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Kenny Stancil ·

Common Dreams Logo