Warren pledges to bypass Congress if needed to wipe out student loan debt

DES MOINES -- Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren vowed Tuesday that if elected, she’d cancel federal student loan debt on her first day in the White House -- and bypass Congress if necessary.

“We have a student loan crisis—and we can't afford to wait for Congress to act. I’ve already proposed a student loan debt cancellation plan, and on day one of my presidency, I’ll use existing laws to start providing that debt cancellation immediately,” the progressive senator from Massachusetts wrote on Twitter Tuesday morning.

The populist White House contender had previously called for canceling up to $50,000 in student loan debt for each of the roughly 42 million federal borrowers, but until Tuesday had yet to outline specific steps she would take and the timing of those actions.

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The senator earlier introduced a student loan debt bill in Congress with fellow Democrat Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina.

But Warren, writing on the website Medium, said that she would act without waiting for Congress because the Secretary of Education can “use its discretion to wipe away loans even when they do not meet the eligibility criteria for more specific cancellation programs.”

And on Twitter, she emphasized that the “Department of Education has broad authority to end the student loan debt crisis. When I'm president, I plan to use that authority.”

And the senator also vowed: “I will also use all the tools available to me to address the racial disparities in higher education, crack down on for-profit institutions, and eliminate predatory lending.”

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Warren’s announcement came hours before she faces off against five of her top rivals in a Democratic presidential nomination debate in Iowa – which kicks off the primary and caucus nominating calendar in less than three weeks. Joining Warren on the stage will be former Vice President Joe Biden, fellow Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and billionaire environmental and progressive advocate Tom Steyer.

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren speaks with reporters while campaigning in Marshalltown, Iowa on Jan. 12, 2019

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren speaks with reporters while campaigning in Marshalltown, Iowa on Jan. 12, 2019

Americans face more than $1.5 trillion in student loan debt – and the issue hits hard in Iowa as well as New Hampshire, which holds the first primary in the race for the White House just eight days after the Iowa caucuses.

Warren’s plan to eliminate student debt appears to be more wide-ranging than plans put out by either Biden or Buttigieg – but her proposals stop short of the call by Sanders to entirely erase all student loan debt.