Biden says no to eliminating $50,000 student debts

Credit: CBSNews
Credit: CBSNews

President Joe Biden took questions from Americans during a televised town hall event in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on Tuesday and revealed that he does not support a plan from Democratic lawmakers to cancel $50,000 in debt for student loan recipients. 

“I will not make that happen,” Mr. Biden said during the CNN town hall when asked about the measure introduced by progressive Democrats earlier this month. While campaigning for presidency, Mr. Biden promised to cancel $10,000 in student loan debt, but has not committed to the plan to cancel up to $50,000 in debt. 

During the town hall, Mr. Biden said eliminating up to $50,000 in student loan debt would take Congressional action. “My point is: I understand the impact of debt, and it can be debilitating,” Mr. Biden said. “I am prepared to write off the $10,000 debt but not [$50,000], because I don’t think I have the authority to do it.”

On February 4, a group of Democrats urged Mr. Biden to use executive action to cancel $50,000 in federal student loan debt.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, and Representatives Mondaire Jones of New York, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, and Alma Adams of North Carolina introduced the measure and argue the Higher Education Act of 1965 gives the White House the authority to cancel the debt without having to use Congressional action.

The day the measure was introduced, White House press secretary Jen Psaki tweeted that Mr. Biden “continues to support the cancelling of student debt to bring relief to students and families.”

“Our team is reviewing whether there are any steps he can take through executive action and he would welcome the opportunity to sign a bill sent to him by Congress,” Psaki’s tweet continued

On his first day in office, Mr. Biden sign an executive actioned on student loan debt extending the pause on student loan payments through September. 

About his plans for student debt forgiveness, Mr. Biden said during the town hall: “It depends on whether or not you go to a private university or a public university.”

“It depends on the idea that I say to a community, ‘I’m going to forgive the billions of dollars of debt for people who have gone to Harvard and Yale and Penn … Is that going to be forgiven, rather than use that money to provide for early education to provide for young children who come from disadvantaged circumstances?” he said.

Mr. Biden also said for four years he has proposed that everyone should be able to go to community college for free and students in families making less than $125,000 a year should go to a state university for free.

He said he would like to expand the existing system for student loan forgiveness, under which borrowers working for nonprofits or for government can apply for debt forgiveness after 10 years. “For example, if you’re teaching school, after five years you have $50,000 of your debt forgiven,” the president said Tuesday.

The president said he would also like to change current position of debt forgiveness so that people can work off their debt and it won’t affect their ability to buy a car or house. “Each of my children graduated from school, I mortgaged the house, I was listed as the poorest man in Congress – not a joke – for more than 30 years,” Mr. Biden said. 

Mr. Biden said after receiving their undergraduate and second degrees, each of his three children were more than $100,000 in debt. “I don’t think anybody should have to pay for that, but I think you should be able to work it off.” He added that he understands how debilitating debt can be and there is also a question as to what universities are doing with tuition. 

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