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December 3, 2021

Rep. Pressley Continues Pushing President Biden to Cancel Student Debt

Video (YouTube) 

WASHINGTON – Today, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07) delivered remarks on the House floor in which she reiterated her calls for President Biden to cancel $50,000 in federal student loan debt by executive action.

 Earlier this year, Congresswoman Pressley, along with Senator Elizabeth Warren and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, led their colleagues in reintroducing their bicameral resolution outlining a bold plan for President Biden to tackle the student loan debt crisis by using existing authority under the Higher Education Act to cancel $50,000 in student loan debt for Federal student loan borrowers. 

 A full transcript of Rep. Pressley’s floor remarks is available below and the video is available here.

 Transcript: Rep. Pressley Continues Pushing President Biden to Cancel Student Debt
U.S. House of Representatives
December 2, 2021 

Madam Speaker, I rise today on behalf of the more than 45 million people in America crushed by the growing weight of the $1.7 trillion student debt crisis. 

The grandmother, you heard me right, the grandmother. I have 76 year old constituents in the Massachusetts 7th still paying student loans, all while on Social Security and a fixed income. 

I rise on behalf of the new parents struggling to manage the skyrocketing cost of child care, of which Massachusetts is the second highest cost in the country $21,000 per child for center based care. The new parent struggling to manage the skyrocketing cost of childcare, rent, and their student loan payments. 

The teacher who fears losing their teaching license, because they have gone into default and can’t come up with that monthly student loan payment. Not even the minimum. The irony, debt that they incurred in order to be an educator in order to be a nation builder, to pour into our children, the next generation.

 I rise on behalf of an entire generation of young people, young people I met with a couple of weeks ago who when I asked them about their future, were despondent and expressed great hopelessness. “Well, I don’t know that I’m going to go to college because I don’t want to be in debt for the rest of my life. And I fear if there will even be a planet for me to grow up in.” 

I rise today on behalf of a whole generation of young people grappling with that sense of foreboding, and despair. A generation of young folk who have been forced to hold off on pursuing an education, starting higher education, starting a small business, purchasing a home, because of record levels of student loan debt.

 And I rise on behalf of Black and brown folk, who do two generations of precise and intentional, what I would characterize as policy violence, have been forced to take on higher rates of student debt for just a chance at the same degree as our white peers. 

Mr. Speaker, the student debt crisis is one that disproportionately impacts our Black community. But for too long, the narrative has excluded us and the unique ways in which this debt is exacerbating racial and economic inequities, compounding our gender and racial wealth gap. We have to borrow at higher rates just for a shot at the same degree as our white peers. 

Black women in particular bear the largest burden, as they are forced to take on higher student debt loads, all while navigating a persistent wage gap that allows Black women to earn just 61 cents to every dollar earned by a white man. 

These are systemic barriers that make it significantly more challenging to repay this debt. 

There are some who have questioned if this is regressive in impact to cancel student debt of $50,000. They’ve questioned the merit of as to whether or not this is a racial justice issue. Well ask the presidents of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities who have been using ARPA funds to cancel student debt. 

Not regressive in impact. Important, necessary and long overdue. 

There are systemic barriers that have existed long before the unjust — long before this pandemic and unjust pre-COVID status quo. 

In this moment, as we work to Build Back Better and to do so equitably. President Biden has an opportunity and a responsibility and the authority to address the hurt and harm these communities are feeling by using his executive authority to cancel $50,000 in federal student loan debt.

Doing so is one of the most effective ways that he can provide sweeping relief to millions of families while helping to reduce the racial wealth gap to lay the groundwork for an equitable and just long term recovery. 

This is a crisis created through policy decisions. We have a responsibility to address it head on. 

In this moment of ongoing crisis, our families need every bit of help that they can get. 

In just under two months, student debt payments are scheduled to resume for millions of families across this country. Families who have been struggling to make ends throughout this pandemic, through no fault of their own, in this pandemic-induced recession, will have an additional bill to cover. 

I’ve parents in my district, in their fifties, still paying on their student loans, and now helping their children pay for their student loans. This is an intergenerational crisis. 

Now, this summer, we applauded the Biden Administration, heeding the calls of many of us here tonight, heeding the calls of this movement, the movement that elected him, when they extended the pause on student loan payments. We fought hard for that. 

This welcome action gave another layer of protection to the millions of borrowers facing a disastrous financial cliff. 

But our work here is unfinished. 

And this isn’t a question as to whether or not he has the authority, because that authority has already been exercised and the same authority should be used to extend the payment pause. 

President Biden must now cancel at least $50,000 in student debt, to boost the economy and to close the racial wealth gap. 

In this moment of a so-called reckoning on racial injustice, the only receipts that matter are policies and budgets. 

The truth is, Madam Speaker, is that this economic crisis is far from over. Families in the Massachusetts 7th and all across the country are continuing to struggle to make ends meet. 

Failure to act would be unconscionable. And so we must move with urgency as we continue the work of building a just an equitable recovery from the current economic crisis. 

Broad based, across the board, permanent student debt cancellation must remain front and center. 

The people — the broad and diverse coalition that elected President Biden — demand, deserve and require nothing less. 

Thank you and I yield.