Omar urges Biden to move forward with canceling student debt

Omar appealed to "racial inequality" as the primary reason to cancel federal student loans.

Rep. Ilhan Omar (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

Rep. Ilhan Omar is calling on the Biden administration to release a Department of Education memo that explains the president’s authority to cancel an estimated $1.8 trillion worth of student loan debt, according to Politico.

In a Friday letter to President Joe Biden and Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, Omar demanded the release of the memo by Friday, Oct. 22. The letter was signed by 14 other members of Congress, most notably Reps. Alexandria-Ocasio Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Presley, and Cori Bush.

“Decades ago, Congress voted to authorize the executive branch to cancel federal student loans,” Omar wrote. “Federal student debt can be canceled with the ‘flick of your pen.’ This authority is already being put to use, as it is currently being used to cancel the interest owed on all federally-held student loans. Now it is time for you to honor your campaign pledge and use this authority to cancel all student debt.”

In April, White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain announced at a Politico Playbook event that President Biden asked Secretary Cardona for a memo to help him make a decision on the amount of student loan debt to cancel. But the president has not yet made a final decision.

“With over six months having passed since [Klain’s] interview and only four months of pandemic forbearance left, borrowers are anxiously awaiting the administration’s actions. The time has come to release the memo and cancel student debt,” the letter reads.

President Biden’s campaign promise on student loan debt is a far cry from what Omar and other top Democratic lawmakers have been calling on him to do. As a presidential candidate in 2020, Biden said he would cancel up to $10,000 in student debt.

Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Chuck Schumer, on the other hand, have pushed legislation to cancel up to $50,000 in student debt. But Biden has rejected the idea.

“I will not make that happen,” he told an audience member at a CNN town hall in February.

That still hasn’t stopped lawmakers like Omar from trying to change the president’s mind. In her letter, she appealed to “racial inequality” as the primary reason to cancel federal student loans.

“Two thirds of all student debt is held by women, with Black women the most burdened of all,” she said. “Twenty years after starting college the average white student owes 6% of what they originally borrowed, around $1,000, while the average Black student still owes 95%, around $18,500.”

“Canceling student debt is both the morally right and economically sound thing to do.”