Feb 4, 2021

Chuck Schumer, Elizabeth Warren Press Conference Transcript: Plan to Cancel $50k in Student Loan Debt

Chuck Schumer, Elizabeth Warren Press Conference Transcript: Plan to Cancel $50k Student Loan Debt
RevBlogTranscriptsPolitical TranscriptsChuck Schumer, Elizabeth Warren Press Conference Transcript: Plan to Cancel $50k in Student Loan Debt

Senators Chuck Schumer and Elizabeth Warren were joined by Representatives Ayanna Pressley and Ilhan Omar for a press conference on February 4, 2021. They proposed a plan to cancel $50k of student debt. Read the full transcript of the briefing here.

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Chuck Schumer: (00:22)
Come on up everybody.

Elizabeth Warren: (00:30)
Here, come on. Let’s get on both sides.

Chuck Schumer: (00:33)
Come on Mondaire.

Elizabeth Warren: (00:34)
Come on Mondaire.

Chuck Schumer: (00:34)
My New Yorker.

Elizabeth Warren: (00:35)
That’s right.

Alma Adams: (00:36)
How you doing young man?

Mondaire Jones: (00:37)
I’m good, how are you?

Alma Adams: (00:37)
Good.

Chuck Schumer: (00:38)
He’s great. This guy’s a star.

Elizabeth Warren: (00:40)
Here we go.

Alma Adams: (00:44)
[inaudible 00:00:44].

Chuck Schumer: (00:44)
That’s right, you got it. Well, thank you very much for coming and joining us. This shows you we are a tough and dedicated group. We are having an outdoor press conference in the beginning of February. And I want to thank senators Warren, representatives, Pressley and Adams, and Omar and Jones. Is representative Pressley here?

Elizabeth Warren: (01:07)
Yes.

Chuck Schumer: (01:07)
There you are.

Elizabeth Warren: (01:08)
Here she is.

Chuck Schumer: (01:11)
There you go. For being here today and certain my pals couldn’t join us. Congresswoman Waters, chair of the banking committee in the house and my fellow, New Yorkers, Ritchie Torres, and Jamal Bowman. Three great new freshmen from New York are going to help all of us lead the charge on this. Mondaire Jones who is here and Ritchie Torres and Jamal Bowman, who couldn’t be with us. Now, why are we here? We are here today to introduce our proposal to cancel $50,000 in student debt.

Elizabeth Warren: (01:50)
Woo hoo!

Chuck Schumer: (01:51)
And take a huge burden off so many people in America. College should be a ladder up, for too many people debt is the anchor that weighs them down and they rarely overcome it. Long before COVID-19 ravaged our country, put so many New Yorkers and others out of work, people across the country have been crushed by the overwhelming loan burden that they’ve had. This debt holds people back from buying cars, from going on vacations, from starting families, from getting the job they want to get. It’s a huge anchor on our entire economy. And there’s very little that the President could do with the flick of a pen that would boost our economy more than canceling $50,000 in student debt. There’ll be a huge push into our economy. The bottom line is this is one of those things the President can do on his own.

Chuck Schumer: (02:55)
Senator Warren and I have researched this thoroughly. Other Presidents’ done it, not in the magnitude we’re asking, but the fact that they have been able to do it shows there is legal authority. We have met with the President. We are pushing the President and his people, and we are very hopeful that the cry from one end of America to the other, take this student loan debt off our backs will be heard in the white house and we can accomplish this goal. And I’ll tell you one thing, we are not going to let up until we accomplish it, until $50,000 of debt is forgiven for every student in the country.

Elizabeth Warren: (03:34)
Yeah, woo hoo!

Chuck Schumer: (03:35)
This is also a civil rights issue. A disproportionate burden of student debt falls on people of color. Oftentimes because they were taken advantage of by a lot of these awful, despicable, disgusting. If I was just here in New York I’d use more dirty words, for profit colleges.

Alma Adams: (03:58)
That’s all right.

Chuck Schumer: (03:59)
And then these poor folks, they don’t even have a degree and then they can’t get a good job.

Elizabeth Warren: (04:06)
That’s right.

Chuck Schumer: (04:06)
And all they have is this debt. And there’s an amazing statistic that shows that something like, and Elizabeth will give me the exact numbers, she knows this stuff inside out, but something like only of White student debt holders, only 15% have debt after 10 years, is it?

Elizabeth Warren: (04:27)
It’s after 20 years, only 5%.

Chuck Schumer: (04:29)
And after 20 years, only 5% of Whites have student debt, but 95% of African Americans have debt. The wealth gap in America between Black and White is one of our greatest problems. And one of the amazingly enough, one of the greatest ways, quickest ways to cure a good chunk of it is get rid of that $50,000 in debt. So we are fighting and fighting and fighting. We think this is great economics, great politics. And most of all, great humanity. We’ve all talked to these folks who are struggling with this burden. It ruins their lives. They wake up every morning saying, “How am I going to pay all this off?” And by the way, the federal government is charging people the outrageous rate of 7%. Is that disgusting?

Elizabeth Warren: (05:20)
Shame on them.

Chuck Schumer: (05:21)
They could get a car loan or a mortgage loan for less than uncle Sam is charging these poor folks. And by the way, this is an issue that climbs all the way up, not just 20 year olds and 30 year olds, but there are 40 year olds and 50 year olds. A lot of the parents have the debt. They would get relief. We got to get this done.

Elizabeth Warren: (05:42)
Let’s get it done.

Chuck Schumer: (05:43)
Elizabeth Warren.

Elizabeth Warren: (05:44)
All right. Let’s get it done. Thank you.

Chuck Schumer: (05:51)
Wait, Elizabeth. My mask. What did I do with it? Oh, I have it in my pocket.

Elizabeth Warren: (05:55)
Got it. Okay, good. We all have to keep up with a leader there. Canceling student loan debt is the single most effective executive action that President Biden can take to kickstart this economy. Canceling student loan debt is the single most effective executive action that President Biden can take to help close the racial wealth gap. Canceling student loan debt is the single most effective executive action President Biden can take to lift the economic prospects of tens of millions of young Americans. Data show that canceling the student loan debt would result in greater home ownership rates, more housing stability, improve credit scores, higher incomes, higher GDP, more small business formation and more jobs.

Elizabeth Warren: (06:49)
Canceling student loan debt is good for you, whether you have student loan debt or not, because it is good for our economy. Canceling student loan debt would help close the Black, White wealth gap by 28 points for African-Americans and by a similar number for Latinos. Again, the single most effective action that the President of the United States can take. 45 million Americans, that’s one in every five adults in this nation is dealing with student loan debt. We cancel of $50,000 of student loan debt and we lift the prospects, we lift the future of all Americans. So I am honored to be here today with my partners from the house and my partner and the Senate leader Schumer. You bet. Who am I supposed to call on?

Chuck Schumer: (07:55)
Pressley.

Elizabeth Warren: (07:56)
All right. Ayanna. Who’s got the order?

Ayanna Pressley: (08:11)
Thank you everyone for joining us today. I’m proud to stand alongside my colleagues, Senator Warren and Senator majority leader Schumer …

Elizabeth Warren: (08:19)
Woo hoo!

Ayanna Pressley: (08:20)
… to re-introduce this resolution urging President Biden to be bold and responsive to the movement that elected him. By taking executive action to cancel $50,000 in federal student loan debt, I also want to thank my partners in this fight. Congresswoman Omar, Chairwoman Waters, representatives, Adams, Bowman, Jones, and Torres for their leadership on this critical issue. We have a record number of house members supporting us in this effort. This is evidence that momentum is on our side. The American are on our side and the movement is on our side. Let me be clear. The student debt crisis has always been a racial and economic justice issue, but for too long, the narrative has excluded Black and Latin X communities. And the ways in which this debt has exacerbated deeply entrenched racial and economic inequities in our nation.

Ayanna Pressley: (09:19)
These disparities didn’t just magically occur. They are the consequences of generations of systemic racism, discrimination, and what I call, policy violence that is systemically denied Black and Latin X families the opportunity to build wealth, forcing our families to take on greater rates of student debt for the chance at the same degree as our White counterparts. This pandemic has made it all but impossible to ignore the fact that we can and we must take bold action to address the inequities and disparities in our country and provide much needed relief to our communities. Canceling student debt by executive action is one of the most effective ways with the stroke of a pen that we can provide sweeping relief to millions of families, help reduce the racial wealth gap and begin to build the groundwork for an equitable and just longterm recovery to truly build back better.

Ayanna Pressley: (10:19)
Our communities can not afford to make the same mistakes of the past. I serve on the Financial Services Committee, take the 2008 financial crisis for example. When lawmakers bailed out Wall Street and abandoned Black and Brown communities who lost everything, many have yet to recover. So as we work to ensure an equitable recovery to the current crisis, we cannot afford to simply tinker around the edges. As lawmakers we have a responsibility to ensure that our longterm recovery efforts leave no community behind, and that’s why we’re here today. We’re here to demand responsive legislation to the needs of the movement who delivered this victory. To finally center our most vulnerable and marginalized communities, to demand a recovery that finally invest in people, because that’s what student debt cancellation is. It’s an investment in the people, particularly Black and Brown families who we know will spend that money back into their communities and stimulate our economy at a time when we need it most.

Ayanna Pressley: (11:26)
Now our resolution has over 50 co-sponsors in the house and a record level of support across both chambers of Congress. We’re joined by over 325 grassroots organizations and calling on President Biden to take executive action to cancel student loan debt. Again, the momentum is building, the coalition is growing. This is the moment of reckoning and the President must heed our calls. With the stroke of a pen, President Biden can provide relief to tens of millions of families across the country, close the racial wealth gap and set our nation on a path to a longterm, just and equitable recovery. He can and he must use this authority. The people deserve nothing less.

Elizabeth Warren: (12:15)
Yay.

Ayanna Pressley: (12:17)
All right. And now, I will bring up representative Adams.

Elizabeth Warren: (12:23)
Woo hoo.

Alma Adams: (12:26)
Thank you, my sister. Thank you all for being here. Majority leader Schumer, Senator Warren, all of my congressional colleagues. Thank you for the opportunity to stand with you today in support of removing a heavy burden from the American people. The burden of student loan debt. Fundamentally it’s about economic relief and equity. Student debt holds back millions of Americans from securing real lasting stability for themselves and for their families. Student debt prevents Americans across the country from building and creating wealth that they can pass down to their children, their grandchildren contributing to the wealth gap and hindering upward mobility. This is felt most acutely by Black and Brown Americans who have historically been denied this by this country, their country, the privilege of financial freedom.

Alma Adams: (13:18)
This reality has only been exacerbated over the past 10 months as we experienced a pandemic induced recession being felt hardest by these same communities. Well, the administration has the opportunity now to make good on the guarantee that education is the passport to the middle class. I’m a former college professor of 40 years, and I know how young people struggle to pay this debt. President Biden now has the opportunity to build a stronger foundation of social and economic mobility for all. So we can live the true words of the late W. E. B Du Bois who said, “Of all of the civil rights for which the world has struggled and fought for, for 500 years the right to learn is undoubtedly the most fundamental.” So let’s cancel that student debt.

Chuck Schumer: (14:12)
Thank you rep Adams.

Alma Adams: (14:14)
Now, who’s up now?

Chuck Schumer: (14:17)
Rep Omar.

Alma Adams: (14:18)
All right, representative Omar from Minnesota. This is warm weather out here for her.

Ilhan Omar: (14:21)
It truly is. And I’m the only one with gloves and everything. Well, good morning, everyone. Thank you so much for having me. It is a delight to be here with majority Senate leader, Chuck Schumer, Senator Warren, and my colleagues on the house side. Millions of Americans can’t afford to put food on the table and feed their families. Millions can’t pay rent and face housing insecurity. Millions lost their jobs during the pandemic and can’t afford basic necessities. The last thing people should be worried about is their student debt. Nearly 45 million Americans are shackled with student loan debt and the amount of debt the average student carries continues to rise. We know that student debt is not a result of bad decisions or behavior, it is the result of a broken system that tells the students to get an education or go to college in order to have a stable life, but then does not provide the resources to afford that education.

Ilhan Omar: (15:44)
It is the result of a two tiered system. One for the rich families who can afford tens of thousands of dollars for higher education and another for the poor and the middle class who have to pay off that education for the rest of their lives. I always say America does not suffer from scarcity, we suffer from greed. We can choose to lift the burden of millions of people face. We can actually invest in the future of the American people. Today, we are taking a needed action to tackle the student loan debt crisis by using executive authority under the higher education act to cancel up to $50,000 in student debt for federal loan borrowers.

Ilhan Omar: (16:41)
This is an important first step, but we can and must go bolder. We cannot be too bold and responding to the pandemic and providing needed help to the American people. I have been encouraged by the steps President Biden has taken to tackle the student debt crisis and hope he uses his executive authority to move towards full student debt cancellation. The American people are counting on us to meet this moment and implement meaningful change. I promise I will not stop fighting until we have ended the student loan debt crisis and cancel student debt for everyone in America. And I am so glad to be in this fight with my colleagues.

Chuck Schumer: (17:35)
All right.

Elizabeth Warren: (17:35)
All right. Nice.

Ilhan Omar: (17:36)
Jones.

Chuck Schumer: (17:36)
Last but not least Congressman Jones, D. New York.

Elizabeth Warren: (17:42)
Absolutely.

Mondaire Jones: (17:43)
It is hard to go after so many luminaries, my goodness. I am thrilled to be here with colleagues in the house and in the United States Senate calling on President Biden to address an urgent issue. The student debt crisis that exists to the tune of $1.7 trillion. 81 million Americans elected Joe Biden, President of the United States. And they gave him a mandate to deliver real change and real solutions after four years of destruction, failure and inequality. The $1.7 trillion national student debt crisis is due in part to the fact that wages have remained stagnant for decades, even as the cost of a college education has skyrocketed. And we know in this country that for the vast majority of good paying jobs, a college education is required. In my district, in Westchester and in Rockland Counties where it is extremely expensive to live, thousands of young people, my age and younger have to live at home with their parents or their grandparents because they can’t afford to live independently.

Mondaire Jones: (19:11)
They can’t afford rent or mortgage. That’s not their fault. They’ve done everything that they were supposed to do. And now this President must do what he is supposed to do. We understand that this President knows his ability to use authority under the Higher Education Act to cancel student debt. And in fact, that is obvious because he has used that same authority to pause student loan payments and the accrual of interest. Now he must go further. He must cancel $50,000 in student debt for those who have loans that are federally owned. And of course, as you heard earlier, this is an issue of racial justice, Black and Hispanic people disproportionately bear the brunt of the student debt crisis that I described. But I would also add if this is an issue of LGBTQ+ justice. Members of the LGBTQ community, largely because their families tend to disown them, disproportionately have higher student debt.

Mondaire Jones: (20:25)
So this President must do the things that he ran on. He must recognize this moment in which we face overlapping crises, not least of which is that national student debt crisis that many of us have described today. And he must forgive that so that we can liberate an entire generation of young people to meaningfully participate in this economy, create jobs and finally, have an economy that works for everybody, not just the wealthy few and large corporations that tend to take advantage of working people who have born the brunt of the student debt crisis. And the President of course, can do this with a stroke of a pen. That is exactly what we here today expect him to do and that is what the American people expect from him. Thank you very much.

Elizabeth Warren: (21:10)
Woo hoo.

Chuck Schumer: (21:12)
All right. We’ll take questions on this subject, only

Eva McKen: (21:17)
Eva McKen, Spectrum News. I believe that there are progressives who are going to watch this today who argue why do congressional Democrats have to lobby to the Biden administration to fulfill what I believe was a campaign pledge from him. Do you have a sense of urgency on this issue from the Biden administration and a timeline for us? Is this something that could happen by the end of February for instance?

Chuck Schumer: (21:40)
Well, first as was said before, President Biden has taken some good steps in the direction of student debt, but we think he has to go much further. They have been extremely open to listening to us, Senator Warren and I had a 45 minute conversation with the President and his advisors just a few weeks ago. And we believe two things. We believe number one, that the American people are strongly behind us on this issue overwhelmingly. And number two, if together, the people on the outside who are emailing and texting and letting the President know how much they care about this and we on the inside continue to push, this is going to happen. Next question. Yes, sir.

Speaker 8: (22:25)
Leader Schumer, did you mention this yesterday when you were at the white house with President Biden to get his sense of it? It seems like this has meant to put pressure on the Biden administration. Is this the goal?

Chuck Schumer: (22:36)
Well I told the President when we started on this, that we were going to try to rally the American people behind this to back him up when he decides hopefully to do it and he had no problem with that. None. Yes? You want to say something?

Elizabeth Warren: (22:51)
No.

Speaker 9: (22:51)
Is there a legislative path at all to canceling student loan debt, Senator Sanders has talked about putting something on [crosstalk 00:22:59].

Chuck Schumer: (22:58)
Look, the easiest way to do it is for President Biden with the flick of a pen, as it has been said by each of us to get it done. Last one.

Speaker 10: (23:07)
Leader Schumer, do you have an estimation of the cost of this mission?

Chuck Schumer: (23:11)
We do have an estimation. It’s about a trillion. How much?

Elizabeth Warren: (23:14)
No, no, no. It’s about a $650 billion. But remember, this is about an executive action. It’s about boosting the economy. It’s not priced out the same way as if Congress did it. This is about an executive action that ultimately will boost our economy. Right now, young people with student loan debt are not forming small businesses, not just because of the pandemic, this was already a problem before the pandemic. They’re not able to buy homes. They’re not able often to move out of relatives homes. So the idea behind this is to put more money into the pockets and better longterm prospects for young people who are starting their economic lives. In the long run, canceling the student loan debt will be a big positive, not only for those families, but also for our economy.

Chuck Schumer: (24:12)
Many of us believe that there ought to be greater stimulus and even in build back better, the President believes better stimulus. This is a giant stimulus for the economy, getting the economy moving again, getting it out of its doldrums, decreasing unemployment, increasing small businesses, increasing economic activity that could be done with the flick of a pen. Thank you everybody.

Elizabeth Warren: (24:36)
Thank you.

Chuck Schumer: (24:37)
Did you want to say something?

Ilhan Omar: (24:37)
I was. I was going to say I know we focused a lot on young people and I’m one of those people who has student debt, but the fastest growing number of people who are currently carrying student debt are over 50. And that is also hindering their ability to plan for their retirement. And so, this is not just a problem that is impacting, this crisis isn’t only impacting those of us who are under 40, but it is impacting people who are also over 50.

Chuck Schumer: (25:07)
A lot of parents take on the student debt, it applies to them too.

Ilhan Omar: (25:09)
Parents, grandparents.

Chuck Schumer: (25:14)
Yes, it does.

Elizabeth Warren: (25:15)
In fact, just to give you an idea of how hard student loan debt hits, keep in mind, social security checks are supposed to be the bare minimum that people have to live on in their retirement years. And there is very little that you can garnish a social security check for. But right now there are over 100,000 Americans whose social security checks are garnished to pay student loan debt.

Chuck Schumer: (25:41)
There you go.

Ilhan Omar: (25:42)
Imagine that.

Elizabeth Warren: (25:43)
That is wrong in America and it is time for us to make a change. President Biden can end that with the stroke of a pen.

Ilhan Omar: (25:51)
Yes.

Chuck Schumer: (25:52)
And you see how excited we are about this even though it’s cold, we keep doing extra questions.

Elizabeth Warren: (25:56)
Oh, we’d stay here. We would, we would.

Alma Adams: (26:01)
Right on. We got that [inaudible 00:26:01].

Elizabeth Warren: (26:01)
That’s right.