Sanders unveils huge US student debt cancellation bill

Democratic Senator and presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders, seen here addressing a rally in South Carolina, has unveiled proposed legislation to era $1.6 trillion in student debt (AFP Photo/Logan Cyrus)

Washington (AFP) - Liberal US senator and 2020 presidential candidate Bernie Sanders on Monday rolled out a proposal to erase all $1.6 trillion in student loan debt, cleaning the slate for 45 million Americans.

"If we could bail out Wall Street, we sure as hell can #CancelStudentDebt," Sanders posted on Twitter shortly before announcing his major legislation in an event at the US Capitol.

The proposal, which is co-sponsored by Democrats Pramila Jayapal and Ilhan Omar in the House of Representatives, would be paid for through a tax on Wall Street, according to the Sanders campaign.

"This is truly a revolutionary proposal," tweeted Sanders, whose calls for tuition-free college and student debt forgiveness gained traction during his 2016 presidential run.

"All Americans will get the college education or job training they need, while having all student debt forgiven."

The measure would have difficulty passing the Republican-led Senate. But it would escalate the political duel between Sanders and liberal rival Senator Elizabeth Warren, who has also proposed a massive plan for student loan debt elimination.

Under Warren's plan, more than 95 percent of the nearly 45 million Americans with student loan debt would have that debt cancelled. Her arrangement is estimated to cost some $640 billion.

Sanders said Sunday that his plan would "probably go further than Senator Warren's."

The hot-button issue has been a common thread on the 2020 campaign trail, with several Democrats noting the extraordinary financial burden under which many college students and graduates find themselves when they take on tens of thousands and even hundreds of thousands of dollars in loans.

Sanders argues that the debt prevents young Americans from buying homes, improving their credit, and engaging more deeply in the US economy