Senator Chuck Schumer, the majority leader, is amping up the pressure on President Biden to take fast action on a plan to cancel $50,000 in student loan debts for each borrower, a top progressive priority.
Congressional Democrats have proposed a nonbinding resolution calling upon Mr. Biden to use his executive authority to cancel about 80 percent of the student loan debt run up by some 36 million borrowers. Many are low-income people, including millions of Black and Hispanic students, disproportionately affected by the pandemic.
Mr. Biden, already wrangling with Republicans over his $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief proposal, has thrown his support behind legislation calling for $10,000 in relief.
He is not expected to quickly shift, according to aides to Democratic senators familiar with the administration’s position.
Mr. Biden “continues to support” the canceling of student debt, the White House press secretary, Jen Psaki wrote on Twitter. “Our team is reviewing whether there are any steps he can take through executive action and he would welcome the opportunity to sign a bill sent to him by Congress,” she added.
The resolution, which would have no legal effect if passed, calls for cancellation for all borrowers, whereas a previous Democratic proposal limited the program to people earning under $125,000 per year.
Speaking during a news conference outside the Capitol early Thursday, Mr. Schumer said, “We are not going to let up until we accomplish it, until $50,000 of debt is forgiven for every student in the country.”
Most Republicans oppose the move, making passage through the Senate difficult; And the proposal has its political perils because it essentially picks winners and losers — leaving borrowers who recently paid off their debt and future recipients of loans without any such relief.
An economic working paper published by the Roosevelt Institute casts debt forgiveness explicitly in racial-justice terms. The total percentage of Black households that would benefit would be greater than white households, and the relative gains for those households’ net worth are far larger, the researchers found.
The legal argument for debt cancellation by executive action hinges on a passage in the Higher Education Act of 1965 that gives the education secretary the power to “compromise, waive or release” federal student loan debts.
In December, Mr. Schumer, who represents New York, and Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts, who has long pushed the plan, wrote in a joint op-ed last week that debt cancellations would give “Black and brown families across the country a far better shot at building financial security.”
It was, they added, the “single most effective executive action available to provide massive stimulus to our economy.”