Biden's Not So Sure About That Whole Student Debt Cancellation Thing Anymore

Biden's Not So Sure About That Whole Student Debt Cancellation Thing Anymore
Photo:Drew Angerer (Getty Images)

In a Wednesday interview with a group of newspaper columnists, President-elect Joe Biden admitted he’s already having second thoughts about cancelling a portion of student debt through executive action when he gets to office.

“… I’m going to get in trouble for saying this . . . for example, it’s arguable that the president may have the executive power to forgive up to $50,000 in student debt,” Biden said. “Well, I think that’s pretty questionable. I’m unsure of that. I’d be unlikely to do that.”

That didn’t take long, did it?

It was just last month that Biden told reporters cancelling student debt “figures into his plan” as president and referenced existing legislation that would eliminate $10,000 of it. “They’re having to make choices between paying their student loans and paying their rent,” Biden said shortly after the election. “It should be done immediately.”

Though Biden hadn’t commented on the use of executive action to eliminate debt, he hadn’t ruled it out either. And at the time Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said that Democratic leadership in Congress had “come to the conclusion” that it was entirely possibly for Biden to forgive $50,000 in debt through executive order on his first day in office.

“You don’t need Congress,” he said. “All you need is the flick of a pen.”

It’s not exactly clear why Biden is convinced this would be an overstep of the office. As Alexis Goldstein, a senior policy analyst at Americans for Financial Reform, pointed out, Trump has exercised his executive power to cancel student loan interest payments in March, and then again in August and December, effectively cancelling a portion of student debt.

It’s difficult to read Biden’s doubts about his executive power as anything other than wavering on the issue itself. Sure, Republicans would probably accuse Biden of abusing his presidential office by enacting such a policy; but that’s only a problem for someone who cares about pleasing Republicans and creating the illusion of good will and civility more than making meaningful change in the lives of everyday Americans. This sort of vacillating—along with Biden’s constant reassurance that Republicans will want to work with him—can only lead one to the conclusion that Biden is this someone.

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