More than 80 Democratic lawmakers, including the Senate's majority leader, are urging President Joe Biden to speed up the process of trying his hand at canceling some student debt under a new authority.
It comes with weeks to go until borrowers must start paying their federal student loans for the first time in three years after a pandemic pause and just days before interest will begin to accrue.
“We are extremely disappointed and concerned that the Supreme Court substituted politics for the rule of law to deny as many as 43 million hard working Americans life-changing relief from crushing student loan debt,” the letter sent to Biden and signed by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., and dozens of other Democrats began.
When the Supreme Court ruled in June that Biden did not have the power to cancel some student debt under the HEROES Act, the president pivoted, announcing he would try again under the Higher Education Act. He promised the new method was “legally sound” but warned the process would be timely.
Officials were light on details of the new plan, saying they had to go through the “negotiated rulemaking” process.
“In the wake of this outrageous decision, we appreciate your announcement initiating a rulemaking under the Higher Education Act of 1965 to deliver on debt relief and write to urge you to swiftly carry out your commitment to working and middle class families, and cancel student debt by early 2024,” the letter continued.
Immediately following the High Court's decision, Biden also laid out a 12-month “on-ramp” period in which borrowers will not receive harsh financial penalties, such as being reported to credit bureaus or debt collection agencies, if they miss a payment between Oct. 2023 and Sept. 2024.
Interest is set to start accruing on student loans next week and borrowers will have to start making payments again in October.
In the letter sent to Biden this week, the Democratic lawmakers from both chambers of Congress called on the president to ensure the new debt cancellation plan is completed before the “on-ramp” period ends.
“We remain gravely concerned about the Department of Education’s projections that without additional relief, student debt delinquencies and defaults will spike once repayment resumes,” the lawmakers wrote. “The Department of Education should work to ensure that implementation of the final rule to provide debt relief does not happen after the 12-month on-ramp ends in effort to further reduce the risk of delinquency and default.”
Before announcing the plan that the Supreme Court ultimately shot down – which would have canceled $10,000 in student loan debt for those making less than $125,000 and $20,000 for Pell Grant recipients – Biden was under intense pressure from some Democrats to take action on student debt.
Earlier this week, his administration officially launched its income-driven student loan repayment plan, billed by Biden as the “most affordable student loan plan ever.”
The Saving on a Valuable Education, or SAVE, plan lowers monthly payments for borrowers based on income, halts loans from growing due to unpaid interest and lessens requirements for low-balance borrowers to receive forgiveness.