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Biden renews push for student loan debt relief

Some borrowers could see relief as early as this fall, providing Biden with a boost before the election.

President Joe Biden will announce a new plan to secure student loan debt relief for millions of borrowers.
President Joe Biden will announce a new plan to secure student loan debt relief for millions of borrowers. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

President Joe Biden is making a fresh attempt to secure student loan debt relief for millions of borrowers, including waiving interest payments on some loans and canceling debt for those who have been in repayment for two decades.

Biden is scheduled to announce his plan today in Madison, Wis., home to the battleground state’s flagship public university. Should his efforts be successful, some borrowers could see relief as early as this fall, providing him with a boost before the election.

Elsewhere, other top White House officials, including Vice President Kamala Harris and Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, will travel to Philadelphia and New York City, respectively, to promote the proposal and meet with borrowers.

The Democratic president’s renewed push for student debt relief comes 10 months after the Supreme Court scuttled an earlier proposal to cancel up to $20,000 in federal student loan debt for 40 million borrowers earning up to $125,000 per year.

The court ruled last June that Biden did not have the authority to waive student debt, a decision hailed by Republicans in Congress and Republican state attorneys general, who brought the lawsuit.

Administration officials said they studied the decision and are confident that the new plan ― which is more targeted in scope and relies on negotiated rulemaking under the Higher Education Act — will withstand any legal challenges.

“President Biden will use every tool available to cancel student loan debt for as many borrowers as possible, no matter how many times Republican elected officials try to stand in his way,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters at a briefing on the plan Sunday.

Administration officials say 23 million people would get all of their interest canceled if their balance is more than it was when they started paying back their loans. An additional 2 million borrowers whose loans are more than 20 years old would see their debt forgiven.

The plan would also cancel debt for borrowers who attended “low-financial value” programs and institutions that failed accountability standards.

The rulemaking process can take longer than Biden’s earlier attempt to address the issue. Before the new rules could take effect, they would be subject to a period of public comment.

White House officials said Sunday they expect the rules to be in place by early fall just weeks before the November election.

“We’re delivering as much relief as possible for as many borrowers as possible as quick as possible,” Cardona said.

The timing is key: Biden has been struggling with key members of the Democratic coalition, including younger voters, progressives and Black and Latino voters.

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