AOC Tells Joe Biden: Cancel More Student Loans to Have 'Any Chance' in 2022

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has warned that President Joe Biden should do more on student loan debt cancellation if the Democrats hope to have "any chance" in the 2022 midterm elections.

Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat who represents New York's 14th congressional district, told The New Yorker in an interview published on Monday that the president's "hesitancy" on the issue was having a demoralizing effect on a key voting bloc.

Her comments come as the Democrats face crucial midterm elections in November with Republicans aiming to take back the House of Representatives and the Senate and then to potentially stymie Biden's agenda.

Some Democrats, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) have urged Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in student loan debt per borrower through executive action.

The president has expressed skepticism that he has the necessary power to do that, but Ocasio-Cortez reiterated that Biden should take action on the matter.

She suggested the Biden administration had "a reluctance to use executive power."

"The president has not been using his executive power to the extent that some would say is necessary," she said.

"One of the single most impactful things President Biden can do is pursue student-loan cancellation. It's entirely within his power," Ocasio-Cortez went on.

"This really isn't a conversation about providing relief to a small, niche group of people. It's very much a keystone action politically. I think it's a keystone action economically as well," she said.

Ocasio-Cortez suggested that Biden's apparent reluctance to act on canceling student debt through executive action could have an impact on the midterms.

"And I can't underscore how much the hesitancy of the Biden administration to pursue student-loan cancellation has demoralized a very critical voting block that the president, the House, and the Senate need in order to have any chance at preserving any of our majority," she said.

Millennials (those aged 25 to 40) and Generation Z (which includes children as well as adults aged 18 to 24) are a growing demographic group and many hold student loan debt. Polls have also shown these groups generally favor student debt cancellation.

Ocasio-Cortez, who is a member of the progressive "Squad," said she didn't believe there was "any guarantee" that Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) would approve legislation "that will significantly and materially improve the lives of working people," admitting that was a "dismal assessment."

"The president has a responsibility to look at the tools that he has," she said.

Action on Student Debt

The Biden administration has touted the fact that it has discharged around $15 billion in student debt to more than 675,000 borrowers.

A spokesperson for the Department of Education told Newsweek on February 5: "While we continue to deliver immediate relief for borrowers struggling with debt we are also making permanent changes that reduce indebtedness and make college more affordable."

Nonetheless, Biden has been under pressure to do more. In April, he asked the Department of Education to prepare a memo on his ability to cancel up to $50,000 of student debt per borrower by executive action.

However, that memo has never been released in unredacted form, despite more than 80 lawmakers demanding its release in January, 2022.

Recent polls have shown Republicans leading Democrats ahead of the midterm elections, which may make Ocasio-Cortez's warning more concerning. If the GOP retakes control of either chamber of Congress, they could block President Biden's agenda for the two years leading into the 2024 presidential election.

Newsweek has asked the White House and Rep. Ocasio-Cortez's office for comment.

Photo Composite Shows Ocasio-Cortez and Biden
A composite photo shows Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and President Joe Biden. Ocasio-Cortez has warned that Biden's hesitancy on student loan cancellation could affect the Democrats' chances in the midterms. Getty Images