When he ran for president in 2020, Joe Biden called for the cancellation of some student debt. But he hasn’t done so yet, and it appears to be one of those presidential initiatives that have fallen into limbo.
Biden had proposed, on the campaign trail, to forgive up to $10,000 per borrower and also to restore bankruptcy discharge of student loans.
All along, there were two options: Biden could unilaterally announce the forgiveness of some amount of loan debt, or he could ask Congress to pass legislation doing so. For the former, Biden has announced an Education Department legal review into whether that can legally be done. For the latter, Biden has not proposed any legislation dealing with the issue.
Biden did not mention student debt cancellation in his joint address to Congress, and the issue does not come up in either his proposed budget or in his legislative packages, the American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan.
The president of the NAACP, Derrick Johnson, took note of the lack of movement on debt cancellation in a recent interview.
“Until we address the student loan debt crisis, which disproportionately impacts African Americans, we can never get to the question of homeownership, therefore accumulating wealth,” Johnson told Politico in an interview published earlier this week.
“While many components of President Biden’s budget appear to be encouraging, when it comes to addressing America’s racial wealth gap, it fails to address a key issue at the core of the racial wealth gap, the student loan debt crisis,” Johnson had said earlier, at the time Biden’s budget was announced, per Business Insider.
Johnson, in the interview with Politico, did praise the administration for other steps taken to reduce the wealth gap.
This week, Johnson was part of a group of civil rights leaders who met with Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, a Democrat who recently made news because he announced that he plans to oppose both the For the People Act and any efforts to change or eliminate the Senate filibuster.
“Our meeting today with @Sen_JoeManchin was robust and insightful. We discussed several topics, most notably the urgent need to maintain the integrity and viability of our democracy through updated voting and election protection legislation,” Johnson wrote on Twitter on Tuesday.
It is possible that the Biden administration is waiting on the outcome of that legal review, in order to make a decision about how to move forward, and that’s why there has been no movement on student loan debt. But with slim majorities in Congress, the administration will likely need to make more than a half-hearted push in order to make any legislative priorities happen.
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for the National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.