Biden officials considering action on student debt relief

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White House press secretary Jen Psaki speaks during a press briefing at the White House, Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

The Biden administration is reviewing whether it can take steps to provide student debt relief through executive action, even as it continues to call on Congress to pass legislation to help borrowers and their families.

A tweet by White House press secretary Jen Psaki appeared to go further than her comments at a briefing earlier Thursday, when she said President Joe Biden was looking to Congress to act next on student loan relief. Biden has said he supports up to $10,000 in student loan forgiveness per borrower.

“The President continues to support the cancelling of student debt to bring relief to students and families,” Psaki tweeted. “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.”

That came hours after a group of Democrats urged Biden to use executive action to forgive $50,000 in federal student debt for all borrowers. The group, which included Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, said that would boost the economy and help close the nation’s racial wealth gap.

Biden previously had said he supports erasing up to $10,000 in student debt through legislation, but he had not shown interest in pursuing executive action. At a briefing before she issued her statement on Twitter, Psaki seemed to dismiss the idea of using presidential powers to erase debt, saying Biden had already paused student loan payments during the pandemic.

“He would look to Congress to take the next steps,” she said.

Legal scholars have fallen on either side of the issue of whether Biden has the power himself to address loan relief, with some saying the move would be unlikely to survive a legal challenge.

The Trump administration took steps to block broad debt cancellation in early January, issuing an Education Department memo concluding that the secretary lacked the authority to provide such assistance and that it would be up to Congress.