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Tlaib cancel student debt

Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), second from left, joins demonstrators demanding that U.S. President Joe Biden cancel student loan debt outside the White House in Washington, D.C. on July 27, 2022. (Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

'A Great Day to Cancel Student Debt': Clock Ticking on Key Biden Promise

"There are people who will not vote in the midterms if it isn't canceled," warned Nina Turner, who noted that 40% of Black voters say they'll consider not voting if the president does not act.

Brett Wilkins

With less than three weeks until U.S. President Joe Biden's student loan repayment pause expires—and less than three months until the 2022 midterm elections—progressives on Thursday pushed the president to take immediate action to cancel student debt.

"Today is a great day for Biden to cancel student debt," the Debt Collective tweeted. "All of it. For everyone. Automatically. Immediately."

Former Ohio state senator Nina Turner, a Democrat, warned on Twitter that Biden is "playin' with fire" if he doesn't cancel student debt as promised during his presidential campaign.

"There are people who will not vote in the midterms if it isn't canceled," she said, adding that "40% of Black voters say they'll consider sitting out the next election if there is no student debt cancellation."

Student loan payments and interest on federally held debt have been suspended since March 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Biden extended the pause last December. More than 40 million student debtors have benefited from the suspension, which according to the New York Federal Reserve has seen an estimated $195 billion in payments waived through April.

According to the Education Data Initiative, 43 million U.S. student borrowers currently owe a combined $1.748 trillion in debt, with the average federal student loan balance over $37,000.

The White House told reporters Tuesday that officials planned to meet virtually with student debt activists and advocacy groups this week, but that Biden had not yet decided whether to extend the payment freeze or implement some form of cancellation.

"We haven't made a decision yet," White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said. "The Department of Education will communicate directly with borrowers about the end of the payment pause when a decision is made."

"When it comes to the cancellation... the president understands firsthand the burden that a student loan has on families," Jean-Pierre added, "and so we're just going to continue to assess our options for cancellation."

One option reportedly under consideration by Biden is canceling $10,000 in debt per borrower for people earning less than $125,000 annually. Progressives—who are pushing for at least $50,000 in loan forgiveness, with some even calling for full cancellation—strongly argue that $10,000 is insufficient relief.

According to Politico:

Administration officials have been looking at canceling $10,000 of debt for borrowers earning below a certain income threshold. But many progressives, including major labor unions and civil rights groups like the NAACP, want the White House to forgive a larger amount of debt—as much as $50,000—for all borrowers...

Republicans have opposed any amount of student loan forgiveness, which they argue would amount to an unfair handout to many Americans who don't need the help and exacerbate inflation in the economy. Some moderate Democrats have also said they're uneasy with widespread loan forgiveness.

GOP lawmakers have introduced legislation to block Biden from carrying out widespread loan forgiveness. And they've signaled they would conduct aggressive oversight of any Biden debt cancellation program next year if they regain control of Congress.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.)—both supporters of canceling $50,000 in student debt—discussed the subject with activists and labor leaders Wednesday evening at the Boston Teachers Union.

"If the president would cancel $50,000 of student loan debt, we could close the Black-white wealth gap overall for people with student loan debt by 27 points," Warren said. "There is not another single action for the president to take by himself that would have such a profound effect on racial equity in this country."

Speaking of the loan payment pause, Pressley noted that during the Covid-19 pandemic "people have been able to use that money to remain safely housed, for other bills. This is an issue of consequences for people from every walk of life."

Both lawmakers said there is reason to be optimistic.

"We are closer than ever before to seeing student debt canceled," Pressley asserted, "and that has everything to do with the many who have been crushed by this and continue to be burdened who have amplified and shared their stories."

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