- A reporter asked Biden Wednesday if he will fulfill his campaign promise to cancel $10,000 in student debt.
- Biden ignored the question.
- Pressure is continuing to mount on Biden for him to act on broad debt relief for 43 million federal borrowers.
During his campaign, President Joe Biden promised to cancel $10,000 in student debt for every borrower. But during his first press conference of the year, he had nothing to say about that promise.
At the end of a nearly two-hour press conference on Wednesday, in which Biden was asked about a range of issues from voting rights to foreign policy, a reporter wrapped up the conference with what she said were “two very simple questions.”
“You campaigned on canceling $10,000 in student loans,” the reporter said. “Do you still plan to do so and when?”
The second question, which Biden answered, was about the Electoral Count Act, but the question on his student-loan campaign promise did not get any response, marking over a year since Biden told 43 million federal student-loan borrowers they would experience broad debt relief “immediately.”
—Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) March 22, 2020
“Biden may have dodged a question today, but he won’t be able to ignore 45 million student loan borrowers if he attempts to turn payments back on in May,” Braxton Brewington, press secretary for the Debt Collective — the nation’s first debtors’ union — told Insider. “The president’s ignoring of a valid question on student debt and his failure to keep a campaign promise is unfortunately reflective of this administration’s failure — whether through incompetence or malice — to address the costly burden of student loans. $1.8 trillion of crushing student debt is a major policy failure that Biden can fix with the stroke of a pen.”
Since Biden took office, advocates, borrowers, and lawmakers have been pushing the president to not only fulfill his $10,000 pledge, but to go even further and cancel at least $50,000 in student debt per borrower, a policy which Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer have previously championed.
But Biden expressed hesitancy with his ability to broadly cancel student debt via executive order, and he asked the Department of Education in February to prepare a memo on his legal authority to act on the issue.
It’s been almost a year since the Education Department was asked to prepare that memo. Insider reported in October that Biden’s administration actually received the memo in February and is choosing not to release it, adding to the mounting frustration among those waiting for student-loan relief, according to redacted documents obtained by the Debt Collective.
This isn’t the first time Biden nor his administration refused to directly address the president’s student-debt campaign promise. In December, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters during a briefing that if Congress passes legislation to cancel student debt, the president is “happy to sign it.”
“They haven’t sent him a bill on that yet,” Psaki said.
Still, lawmakers are not easing up on the pressure to give student-loan borrowers relief. After Biden extended the student-loan payment pause a third time through May 1, progressive lawmakers like Rep. Cori Bush of Missouri said the extension should allow for extra time to cancel student debt.
“This is what happens when we all come together to raise our voices,” Bush wrote on Twitter. “Extending the student loan payment pause is a HUGE step forward that will help people get through this pandemic. Now let’s keep pushing until @POTUS cancels student loan debt.”