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Chuck Schumer Is Thorn in Joe Biden’s Side on Student Loan Forgiveness

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Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is pushing ahead with his campaign to cancel large amounts of student loan debt despite President Joe Biden’s apparent reluctance.

With Democrats now in the majority in both houses of Congress and the highest ranking Democratic senator embracing student loan forgiveness, the Biden administration may face renewed pressure to act.

Schumer’s commitment to the $50,000 figure and his public calls for Biden to use his authority could make him a thorn in the president’s side. Schumer’s influence as Senate majority leader is significant.

Schumer spoke to two Black college alumni who have student loan debt on a Zoom call on Thursday. Details of the conversation were shared with Blavity News, a community and platform for Black voices.

He discussed his bill with Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) that urges Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in student debt through executive action. The president has so far proven unwilling to get on board with the idea.

“Black students on average are more than 20 percent more likely to take out loans,” Schumer told the graduates, Veronica Williams and Stanley Augustin, adding that “half [of Black student loan holders] default on their loans within 12 years.”

Williams and Augustin shared their own experiences and concerns with Schumer, who recommitted himself to the idea of relief for student loan borrowers.

The senator also highlighted that Black student borrowers still owe 95 percent of their debt after 20 years, compared to just 6 percent for white borrowers.

He said his plan for student debt relief “would close the Black-white wealth gap by 28 percent.”

“You are great young Americans and if we got rid of the student debt, you could have an even better future,” Schumer said.

Schumer and Warren believe that Biden has the authority to cancel up to $50,000 of student loan debt per individual borrower without recourse to Congress but the president has rejected their proposal so far.

“President Biden can #CancelStudentDebt and help close the racial wealth gap,” Schumer tweeted on Thursday.

Biden wants Congress to introduce more modest debt relief that would cancel up to $10,000 for each borrower. Schumer and Warren have continued to push for the higher figure and many progressives in Congress support the move.

Forgiving student loan debt in some form is broadly popular. According to a Vox/Data for Progress poll in December, 51 percent of likely voters supported cancelling $50,000 of debt for those earning less than $125,000 per year.

President Biden can #CancelStudentDebt and help close the racial wealth gap.https://t.co/kNbmt6E3sP

— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) March 19, 2021

Biden’s $10,000 plan enjoyed 56 percent support in a Morning Consult poll taken from January 8 to 11. Polling results like that may encourage Democrats to continue their advocacy for debt cancellation and bolster Schumer’s position on the larger figure.

The graphic below, provided by Statista, shows the growth of U.S. student loan debt.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) holds a press conference at the U.S. Capitol on March 16, 2021 in Washington, DC. Schumer is pushing for major student loan debt cancellation.
Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images

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