Over 80 lawmakers urge Biden to release memo outlining his authority on student debt cancellation

More than 80 lawmakers in both the House and Senate are urging President BidenJoe BidenDeputy AG: DOJ investigating fake Trump electors On The Money — Vaccine-or-test mandate for businesses nixed Warner tests positive for breakthrough COVID-19 case MORE to publicly release information on his legal authority to cancel student loan debt he requested from Education Secretary Miguel CardonaMiguel CardonaThe Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by Facebook – Biden talks, Senate balks School infrastructure is a children’s human rights issue — it’s time the US acknowledges that The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by Altria – Jan. 6 Capitol attack back in spotlight MORE.

Lawmakers made the call in a letter sent to Biden on Monday, led by Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenFiscal conservatives should support postal reform  Five Democrats the left plans to target Arizona Democratic Party executive board censures Sinema MORE (D-Mass.) and Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerVoting rights failed in the Senate — where do we go from here? Forced deadline spurs drastic tactic in Congress Democrats call on Biden administration to ease entry to US for at-risk Afghans MORE (D-N.Y) and Reps. Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalDesperate Dems signal support for cutting Biden bill down in size Sanders, 50 Democrats unveil bill to send N95 masks to all Americans Centrist Democrats urge progressives to tamp down rhetoric MORE (D-Wash.), Ayanna PressleyAyanna PressleyDemocrats call on CDC to release demographic breakdowns for long-term COVID-19 patients House votes to award medal to Willie O’Ree, first Black NHL player It’s time for President Biden to use his vast clemency power MORE (D-Mass.), Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarSenate needs to confirm Deborah Lipstadt as antisemitism envoy — Now Overnight Defense & National Security — DOD watchdog to review extremism screening Omar calls for closure of Guantánamo Bay prison after 20 years of ‘lawlessness and cruelty’ MORE (D-Minn.) and Katie Porter (D-Calif.).

In the letter, lawmakers call on Biden to direct the Department of Education to “publicly release” a memo the administration ordered last year outlining the president’s authority to cancel student loans.

The Hill has reached out to the White House for comment.

The letter comes roughly nine months after White House chief of staff Ron KlainRon KlainBiden: A good coach knows when to change up the team Biden seeks to save what he can from Build Back Better The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by Facebook – Biden clarifies his remarks on Russia MORE publicly disclosed that the administration was working to prepare a memo on Biden’s power to cancel student loan debt.

“He asked his secretary of Education, who’s just been on the job a few weeks, once he got on the job to have his department prepare a memo on the president’s legal authority, and hopefully we’ll see that in the next few weeks,” Klain said in an interview with Politico at the time. “And then he’ll look at that legal authority, he’ll look at the policy issues around that, and he’ll make a decision.”

“Publicly releasing the memo outlining your executive authority on canceling student debt and broadly doing so is crucial to making a meaningful difference in the lives of current students, borrowers, and their families,” the lawmakers wrote in the letter. “It has been widely reported that the Department of Education has had this memo since April 5, 2021 after being directed to draft it.”

They went on to call on Biden to use all tools at his disposal “to deliver relief to the millions of families inspired by your proposal to make a debt-free college degree within their reach by eliminating up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt for all families before payments resume.”

Since his presidential campaign, Biden has called for “a minimum of $10,000” in federal student loans to be canceled per borrower, while pushing back on calls from prominent Democrats urging to go as high as $50,000 or wipe out federal student loan debt entirely.

In Biden’s first year in office, the administration has provided more than $10 billion in student loan relief for thousands of borrowers, including borrowers with total and permanent disabilities, those who attended now-defunct schools and public service workers.

There are disagreements among Democrats over whether the president has the power for widespread cancellation.  

But as concerns mount over the coming lapse of a nationwide hold on federal student loan payments, Biden is seeing increased calls from progressives and advocates for broader forgiveness.

In their letter on Monday, the group of lawmakers argued student loan cancellation would help Americans “access important paths to build the middle class,” put others in a better position to save for homeownership and retirement and “help close the racial and gender wealth hap in Black and Brown communities that have been borne out of generations of discriminatory policies.”

“Robust assistance to borrowers is necessary to drive a full recovery,” they continued, before adding they look forward to working with Biden “on this important matter.”

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