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Dem lawmakers, progressive groups push Biden to bypass Congress to forgive student loan debt

Almost 240 organizations have signed on to a letter to Biden urging him to use "executive authority to cancel federal student debt on day one."

Updated: November 20, 2020 - 11:53pm

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Democrats and progressive organizations are calling on Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden to cancel student debt by executive order once he takes office.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, the top Democrat in the Senate, has endorsed the idea of Biden signing an executive order to cancel up to $50,000 of student debt for borrowers. 

"I have a proposal with Elizabeth Warren that the first $50,000 of debt be vanquished, and we believe that Joe Biden can do that with the pen as opposed to legislation," Schumer, a New York Democrat, said during a recent interview.

Schumer and Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren argue that Biden could implement their debt forgiveness proposal without congressional action.

In addition to Schumer and Warren, Vermont independent Sen. Bernie Sanders and New York Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are among the Democratic lawmakers in support of forgiving student debt.

As of Friday, 239 organizations have signed onto a letter to Biden urging him to use "executive authority to cancel federal student debt on day one."

"Before the COVID-19 public health crisis began, student debt was already a drag on the national economy, weighing heaviest on Black and Latinx communities, as well as women," the letter read. "That weight is likely to be exponentially magnified given the disproportionate toll that COVID-19 is taking on both the health and economic security of people of color and women."

During the presidential campaign, Biden said he supported forgiving up to $10,000 of student loan debt during the coronavirus pandemic. This proposal was included in the HEROES Act that the House has passed.

Biden has not said if would forgive any amount of debt with an executive order.

Some financial experts such as author and investor Zack Friedman argue that the president does not have the authority to cancel student loan debt.

"It's not settled law whether a president can cancel student loans," Friedman wrote. "The traditional perspective says that a president cannot unilaterally cancel student loans."

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