Biden faces pressure to extend student loan payment break | PA power and politics

WASHINGTON (AP) — In the days and weeks leading up to the midterm elections, President Joe Biden trumpeted his plan to forgive billions in student loans as he rallied young people in support of Democrats.

But now the whole initiative is in jeopardy due to legal challenges that could ensure no one receives a dollar of debt relief. The debacle is quickly becoming a headache for the administration instead of an example of how the president keeps his promises to voters.

The White House insists he will ultimately prevail even though two federal courts have blocked the program from going into effect. However, the setbacks have rattled supporters who fear that more than 40 million Americans who expected relief could start being charged for their student debt in January, when a moratorium on payments in the age of pandemic should expire.

“You can’t ask people to start paying off debt that shouldn’t be there,” said Melissa Byrne, who is advocating for loan forgiveness. “We bear no blame in this broken system.”

The standoff has left the White House at an impasse over whether to extend the moratorium if the legal battle drags on even though Biden has said the pandemic, the original reason for the payments pause, “is over.”

The freeze has already cost the federal government more than $100 billion in lost revenue, according to the Government Accountability Office. Critics such as the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget warn that another extension could worsen inflation and increase the risk of economic recession.

Republicans oppose the cancellation as an unfair handout for the wealthy, arguing that Americans who didn’t go to college will also bear the cost. Conservatives have orchestrated a barrage of legal attacks on Biden’s plan, saying it oversteps the president’s authority.

In the meantime, borrowers across the country are once again facing uncertainty. An estimated 20 million people were eligible to have their federal student debt fully forgiven by Biden’s plan, which would forgive $10,000 in student loan debt for those earning less than $125,000 or households earning less than $250. $000. Those who receive Pell Grants, usually given to low-income people, would receive an additional $10,000 in forgiveness.

Now it’s unclear whether borrowers will have to make payments on that debt when the pause ends, and the political risks are mounting. The support of 43 million borrowers who have been promised at least debt relief, including millions of young Americans, a demographic that helped deliver key victories for Democrats last week, is at risk.

Adwoa Asante, who is entitled to $20,000 rescission, said it would be “destabilizing” if her payments resumed in January. The 33-year-old Dallas lawyer owes $163,000 in law school debt, with monthly bills of up to $2,000. Asante voted for Biden but blames him for reaping the benefits of his midterm plan only to leave borrowers out.

“Honestly, there is a lot of frustration with the Biden administration. I think they expected there to be legal challenges to the student loan cancellation,” she said, qualifying the legal challenges of “foreseeable”.

Cedric Richmond, who worked in the White House before becoming a senior adviser to the Democratic National Committee, doubted Biden would face any political fallout if the program was ultimately stalled.

If the program is ultimately stalled, he said, “the blowback should go exactly where it deserves, and that’s with that rogue Supreme Court.”

About 6 in 10 voters under 45 approve of Biden’s handling of student debt, according to AP VoteCast, a survey of more than 94,000 voters nationwide. Voters as a whole were almost evenly split on the issue, while Democrats were much more likely to show their approval than Republicans.

Nearly 26 million people have already applied for debt relief, out of about 43 million eligible. The Department of Education stopped accepting new applications on Friday after a Texas federal judge overturned the plan.

Speaking in New Mexico on Nov. 3, Biden said he was on solid legal footing.

“We are fighting them in court,” he said. We don’t let them get away with it. »

Without the promised relief, advocates say many borrowers could quickly default on their student loans. Nearly half of borrowers surveyed by the Student Debt Crisis Center say they won’t be able to pay off their student debt within six months, according to a report on Tuesday.

“Borrowers don’t feel like the pandemic is over, they don’t feel like the economic impacts are over,” said Natalia Abrams, president of the center. “We must suspend payments until all legal obstacles are removed.”

The legality of the massive student debt cancellation was questioned from the outset. After being elected, Biden said it would be best if the measure came from Congress. Shortly before leaving office, the Trump administration issued a memo concluding that the White House lacks the power to cancel on a large scale.

Supporters say they still believe Biden’s plan will survive, despite predictions that it could go before a Supreme Court that swung to the right and limited Biden’s authority in other rulings. They argue that the Higher Education Act, a sprawling federal law, already gives the president broad power to cancel federal student debt.

Some groups say Biden should pursue other legal avenues to keep his promise. The Debt Collective, a syndicate of borrowers, is urging Biden to immediately cancel the debt by invoking the Higher Education Act, the same legal authority initially suggested by supporters including Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.

“He’s got a trick up his sleeve and he hasn’t used it,” said Braxton Brewington, spokesman for the collective. “The Biden administration should simply avoid these lawsuits.”

Some legal scholars say Biden should scrap the current plan and start over. Jed Shugerman, a law professor at Fordham University in New York, said he believes the White House erred in its legal reasoning.

“The Biden administration encountered problems that were clearly foreseeable,” he said. “They should go back to square one.”

While that would take time, Shugerman said, it’s better than waiting for a Supreme Court defeat. The White House, he said, is “sticking to a sure loser” instead of “changing tracks to something that has a better chance.”


Associated Press writers Hannah Fingerhut and Claire Savage contributed to this report.


The Associated Press education team receives support from the Carnegie Corporation of New York. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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