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Schumer, Warren challenge Biden on student debt cancellation

Flanked by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Representative Ilhan Omar, Senator Elizabeth Warren spoke during a press conference about student debt on Feb. 4.Drew Angerer/Getty

Two top Senate Democrats said Wednesday they will keep pressuring President Joe Biden to wipe out up to $50,000 per borrower in student loan debt after he shot down that proposal at a town hall event.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senator Elizabeth Warren for months have been pushing Biden to be more ambitious with executive action to cancel student loans, and they said they aren’t giving up.

“Canceling $50,000 in federal student loan debt will help close the racial wealth gap, benefit the 40% of borrowers who do not have a college degree, and help stimulate the economy. It’s time to act. We will keep fighting,” they said in a statement.


Biden appeared to dismiss the idea during a CNN town hall event in Milwaukee Tuesday night. In response to a question from an audience member, Biden said he understood that debt can be debilitating and he would support some relief.

“I do think that, in this moment of economic pain and strain, that we should be eliminating interest on the debts that are accumulated, number one. And, number two, I’m prepared to write off the $10,000 debt, but not” $50,000, he said.

He suggested that there could be a system “to work it off” with public service jobs. Biden said he didn’t think he had the authority to write off a larger amount through executive action.

Schumer and Warren disagree.

“The Biden administration has said it is reviewing options for canceling up to $50,000 in student debt by executive action, and we are confident they will agree with the standards Obama and Trump used,” they said, noting that previous presidents have also used executive actions to deliver student-loan relief.

A report last week from the Brookings Institution estimates the cost of the Schumer and Warren plan for $50,000 loan forgiveness at about $1 trillion and the cost of Biden’s $10,000 proposal at $373 billion.