Biden was asked about the cancellation of student loan debt. Progressives saw an opening.
The question the reporter asked Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Monday was quite simple: Was canceling student loan debt in his plans for the economy and would he take executive action to do so?
His answer came in a question-and-answer session after Mr Biden gave his first speech on the economy as president-elect.
“It’s in my plan,” Biden replied, before referring to legislation proposed by House Democrats that called for the immediate cancellation of $ 10,000 in student loan debt as part of a pandemic bill. “It puts the brakes on people,” he said of student debt. “They are in real trouble. They have to make choices between paying their student loans and paying their rent, those kinds of decisions. It should be done immediately.
He then presented an overview of the plans he presented during his campaign, including ensuring that anyone whose family earned less than $ 125,000 would have access to free education.
But in his response, Mr Biden did not explicitly say whether he was in favor of canceling all student loan debts. He has also not said whether he would cancel student loan debt through executive action – spurring progressives, who have sought to push him further on the issue for months.
Social media quickly ignited with calls from the left for Mr Biden to write off all student debt, a signing policy issue championed by progressive leaders including Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.
Already, the idea of canceling student loan debt has caught on in the party. Mr. Biden himself proposed a loan forgiveness program for public service workers: For each year of service, up to five years, workers would be eligible for the elimination of $ 10,000 of their undergraduate or graduate debt.
And Senator Chuck Schumer, the leader of the Democratic minority, said in a recent interview that he and Ms. Warren had a proposal to eliminate the first $ 50,000 in student loan debt, and that he believed Mr. Biden could do so through executive action within the first 100 days of his presidency.
“We believe Joe Biden can do it with the pen rather than with legislation,” Mr. Schumer said.