White House punts Biden's promise to cancel $10,000 in student debt to Congress: 'They haven't sent him a bill on that yet'
The White House said it's up to Congress to help carry out Biden's promise to cancel $10,000 in student loans.
"If Congress sends him a bill, he's happy to sign it. They haven't sent him a bill on that yet," Psaki said.
Millions of Americans are expected to restart their student-loan payments in 49 days.
The White House on Tuesday said it's up to Congress to help execute President Joe Biden's promise to cancel $10,000 in student loans per borrower, though Democrats have asked him to forgive the debt on his own for months.
"What is the message to those people who feel that he is yet to follow through on that promise?" a reporter asked White House press secretary Jen Psaki said during Tuesday's press briefing.
"If Congress sends him a bill, he's happy to sign it. They haven't sent him a bill on that yet," Psaki responded.
Biden campaigned on approving $10,000 in student debt cancellation per borrower, but he still has not done so nearly 11 months into his presidency. In a speech on November 16, he said student loans are holding borrowers up, and forgiving $10,000 "should be done immediately."
—Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) March 22, 2020
His campaign website also said he'd work with Democrats to "authorize up to $10,000 in student debt relief per borrower" as part of COVID-19 relief, but the $1.9 trillion stimulus package he signed in March didn't include student debt relief. And in early February, shortly after Biden was sworn in and pressure to fulfill the student-loan cancellation began, Psaki said that the president's "calling on Congress to draft the proposal."
But lawmakers have insisted that Biden can get it done himself by simply signing an executive order. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer have led the push to cancel $50,000 in student debt per borrower, which they believe Biden can do on his own via the Higher Education Act.
"Cancelling $50,000 in student debt would completely wipe out student loans for 84% of borrowers, including more than 3 million borrowers who have been repaying their loans for more than 20 years," Warren previously told Insider. "This is the single most effective executive action President Biden could take to jumpstart our economy and begin to narrow the racial wealth gap."
Biden has expressed doubt in his legal ability to cancel student debt broadly, and he asked the Education Department to prepare a memo in April on whether he has that authority. But recently released documents revealed that Biden received that memo as early as April but has yet to release its contents.
Even so, Psaki said during the Tuesday press briefing that "there have been questions and asks about what executive authorities could be used. That has been under review."
"I don't have anything to report on that in this point in time," she added.
Psaki's comments come as millions of Americans are expected to restart their student loan payments on February 1, 2022, after a nearly two-year pause because of the COVID-19 pandemic. But with the public health crisis still ongoing, Democratic lawmakers, advocates and borrowers have urged Biden to extend the pause.
"This debt is just overwhelming for people," Schumer said last week. "If we don't extend the pause, interest rates just pile up. Students owe a fortune. And with Omicron here, we're not getting out of this as quickly as we'd like."
Borrowers across the country owe an estimated $1.7 trillion in student, a record-breaking total, according to data from the Federal Reserve.
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