Over the weekend, debt activists uncovered that the Biden administration has hidden an Education Department memo on the legality of student debt forgiveness for months — despite repeated calls from activists and progressive lawmakers for the memo to be released.
The New Yorker reportedThe Debt Collective is an activist group that seeks student loan forgiveness and other debt forgiveness. They filed a Freedom of Information Act request (FOIA) The memo that Ron Klain, White House Chief Of Staff, had sent said in early April would be ready in “the next few weeks.”
The seven-page memo received by the activists was completely redacted, but it was dated April 8, just a week after Klain discussed the memo’s existence on cable news — meaning that the memo has existed for months, but the administration has concealed it from the public.
Look at what we found!
Since April 8, The White House has been reading the legal memo about student debt cancellation authority. It has six pages. It is time to stop making excuses. #CancelStudentDebthttps://t.co/GlQkpgiGjQ pic.twitter.com/L3QXEEp3p7
— The Debt Collective (@StrikeDebt) October 29, 2021
Jen Psaki, White House Press Secretary, has been in charge of the White House Press Office for the past few months. has maintained that the administration didn’t have information on the memo, saying last month that she “[didn’t] have any other update.” She has also shifted the responsibility away from President Joe Biden, saying, “If Congress wants to send us a bill that would, you know, relieve $10,000 in student debt, the president would be happy to sign that.”
Last week Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said that the administration was still exploring the issue, and that they are making it a priority “that part of the conversation is examining loan forgiveness.” According to reports from earlier this year, Cardona is named as the recipient of the memo, which was created under his and the White House’sDirection.
Early last month, progressive legislators led by Rep. Ilhan Omr (D-Minnesota), took office. A letter was writtenBiden gave Biden a two-week deadline for the release of the memo. Despite the fact that the deadline was met, the administration did not provide any updates on the memo.
The fact that the administration has acted as though the memo doesn’t exist for months suggests that they may be hiding its contents. Because the administration has obfuscated what the memo says, activists have theorized that the memo by the Education Department’s acting general counsel may not have found what officials were hoping for.
“The Debt Collective activists developed a theory: that the lawyers at the Department of Education had already written their memo, that they had advised Biden that he Did have the authority to cancel debt, and that the Administration was keeping the memo quiet because they didn’t like its conclusions. But this was mere speculation,” The New Yorker reported.
The activists received dozens of emails from department officials, and on April 5, the general counsel called a draft of the memo “excellent.” Later, the word “draft” was removed from the memo, which activists feel lends support to their theory about the administration’s obfuscation.
Legal expertsAdvocates claim that the president has the power to cancel student loans with a single stroke of his pen. Even a deputy general counsel for the agency — an expert on predatory student loans cited often by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts), one of Congress’s primary advocates for debt cancellation — is in favor of the idea.
The Debt Collective is planning toYou can hold a week-long action period in January before the student loan payment suspension is reopened in February.
“The urgency is clear: Biden says the ‘final’ moratorium on student loan payments ends in January,” the group wrote in a call to action. “But, our communities are suffering, and President Biden has the authority and capacity to fix it by picking up a pen and issuing an Executive Order to cancel all student loan debt.”
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, a Democratic-New Yorker, has just a few more months until student loan payments start to resume. said on Thursday that it’s time to pressure the president on the issue. “I think given how much [the Build Back Better Act] Slashed, there is more opportunity than ever to bring the heat on Biden to cancel student loans,” she said. “He doesn’t need Manchin’s permission for that, and now that his agenda is thinly sliced, he needs to step up his executive action game and show his commitment to deliver for people.”