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Biden is on the verge of a student loan triumph. What's the holdup?

The Biden administration is expected to reveal in the next week whether a pause on student loan payments will continue.


UPDATE (Aug. 24 2022, 11:45 a.m. ET): President Joe Biden on Wednesday announced he's canceling $10,000 in student loan debt for borrowers who make $125,000 per year or less, with an additional $10,000 in forgiveness for certain Pell Grant recipients. He's also extending the pause of federal loan student payments through Dec. 31.

Within the next week, we’re likely to get word on whether the Biden administration will extend the pause on federal student loan payments, or potentially go further and forgive loans completely for some borrowers. 

Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona told NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday that the Biden administration is considering its next steps before Aug. 31, when a moratorium on student loan payments is scheduled to end.

“We’ve been talking daily about this," Cardona said, "and I can tell you the American people will hear within the next week or so.”

A Covid relief bill, known as the CARES Act, authorized a temporary pause on student loan payments beginning in March 2020, and the Biden administration has extended the pause several times since then.

Hot take: Months out from the midterms, Biden will not simply let the pause expire unless he’s possessed — “Ghost”-style — by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. Doing so would be stupidly self-injurious. I’d bet my house on him either extending the loans or coupling an extension with some measure of forgiveness. 

We're talking about varying degrees of relief, but I see no reason for the administration not to go as big as possible. 

In April, I wrote about the broad, nationwide support for forgiving some — if not all — student loans. At the time, I noted the profound impact student loan forgiveness would have for people belonging to key demographics in the Democratic Party — namely, women and nonwhite people, who bear the greatest burden from student loans. 

To me, the undeniably positive impact of unchaining millions of people from loans that preyed on their desire to be educated is more worthy of attention than naysayers who oppose forgiveness for selfish or misguided reasons. In that latter group, I include the majority in a recent CNBC online survey who said they fear loan forgiveness will worsen inflation. 

With all due respect, we shouldn’t defer to armchair economists or rote capitalists who want us to fear more Americans having money. And the Biden administration shouldn’t get in its own way, just after passing the most ambitious climate package in U.S. history. 

Student loan forgiveness is a political winner for the administration. And it would be life-changing for its recipients. Biden should know there’s no need — or benefit — to postpone it any longer.