Even as Education Secretary Betsy DeVos took executive action to extend the benefits, she said it should be up to Congress, not the executive branch, to make policy decisions about federal student loans.
“The coronavirus pandemic has presented challenges for many students and borrowers, and this temporary pause in payments will help those who have been impacted,” DeVos said in a statement. “The added time also allows Congress to do its job and determine what measures it believes are necessary and appropriate. The Congress, not the Executive Branch, is in charge of student loan policy.”
Biden has not committed to any specific executive action on student loans, but he is widely expected to further continue in some form the same freeze on monthly payments and interest the Trump administration has now twice extended through executive action.
Congress has debated for months whether to further extend the student loan relief, but Democrats and Republicans have disagreed over how and whether to do so.
The coronavirus relief bill House Democrats passed in May would freeze student loan payments until Sept. 30 of next year and keep the interest rate at 0 percent for the same period or even longer, unless the unemployment rate improves.
A $908 billion bipartisan proposal a group of centrist senators unveiled this week included approximately $4 billion for continuing some form of student loan relief, potentially through March of next year, though the details have not been hammered out. But Senate Republicans have been cooler to the idea.
The latest coronavirus relief plan from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell does not include an extension of the student loan benefits.
Biden is also facing pressure from progressive Democrats to go further and use executive action to outright cancel hundreds of billions of dollars worth of outstanding student loan debt.
Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Chuck Schumer on Friday published an op-ed again urging Biden to forgive large swaths of student loan debt, which they argue would stimulate the economy and narrow the racial wealth gap in the United States.
Biden on the campaign trail endorsed the idea of canceling $10,000 worth of debt per borrower as a pandemic relief measure. But he has not committed to doing so through executive action as opposed to asking Congress to clear legislation to that end.