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Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren would use executive authority to begin canceling federal student loan debt on her first day in office, bypassing Congress.
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In a plan released Tuesday, Warren said she would direct the secretary of Education to “use their authority” to begin to cancel and mollify student loan debt by as much $50,000 in relief for about 95 percent of student loan borrowers.
Under the Higher Education Act, Warren argued, the Department of Education has the power to “modify, compromise, waive or release” student loans. She says that would give her administration the ability to cancel, or ease, student loan debt.
“Let’s be clear: our government has cleared far bigger hurdles to meet the needs of big businesses when they came looking for bailouts, tax giveaways, and other concessions,” she wrote in a Medium post.
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She also vowed to crack down on for-profit colleges, predatory student lending and the racial disparities in the higher education system.
Her plan, the Student Loan Debt Relief Act (which Warren introduced in April alongside Rep. James Clayburn, D-S.C.), would cancel $50,000 in student loan debt for every household with a gross income less than $100,000, representing roughly 42 million Americans, or about three out of four borrowers. It would also partly eliminate debt for those who make as much as $250,000.
To back her plan to leapfrog Congress, Warren released a letter signed by three legal experts who vouched for the legality of a president canceling student loan debt via executive power. The experts, all members of Harvard’s Project on Predatory Student Lending, called the proposal a “lawful and permissible” use of authority.
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“Congress has granted the secretary a more specific and unrestricted authority to create and to cancel or modify debt owed under federal student loan programs,” the letter read. “That provision empowers the secretary to execute the broad debt cancellation plan you have proposed.”
Still, she said she would continue to fight to enact the remainder of her college affordability plan, as well as the wealth tax that would help fund it.