Biden’s Education Secretary may have opened the door to further delay in student loan payments past October

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona.
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona.

  • The pause on student loan payments is set to lift at the end of September.
  • Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said conversations are ongoing on whether to extend the pause.
  • He said last month an extension was not “out of the question,” but no further details were provided.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

As one of his first actions in office, President Joe Biden extended the pause on student-loan payments through September to give borrowers financial relief during the pandemic. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona on Wednesday hinted at the possibility of extending the pause even further.

“We are continuing conversations about if that’s the best time,” Cardona told the Senate Appropriations Committee. “No announcements today, but we continue to have those conversations.”

Cardona testified before the Senate committee on Wednesday morning regarding the education components in Biden’s budget proposal, during which he acknowledged the relief that borrowers have received under the student loan payment pause during the pandemic. New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen said that payments restarting in October is “a huge concern for borrowers” and stressed the need to provide certainty for them regarding whether the pause will be extended.

The conversations Cardona mentioned have been ongoing since at least May. At an Education Writers Association conference last month, he said extending the payment pause is “not out of the question.”

“Obviously, we’re going to always take the lead from what the data is telling us and where we are as a country with regards to the recovery of the pandemic,” Cardona said. “It’s not out of the question, but at this point it’s September 30.”

He added that with the repayment process, the department would have to work with borrowers “to make sure that we ramp up the communication and the clarity so that it’s smooth as possible.”

“We know that that’s something we’re going to be focusing on as it gets closer,” he said.

Insider recently reported that the Education Department is planning to improve experiences for student-loan borrowers, but it’s currently unclear what such improvements would entail. An Education Department spokesperson told Insider there is not yet a timeline for when improvements will be implemented.

“We recognize for many families that the recovery from this pandemic will come around the same time,” Cardona said during the hearing. “Students are going to be returning to schools, mortgages will have to start being paid, loans will have to start getting paid, so we want to make sure we are sensitive to the needs of the borrowers and aware of the other challenges that they have. We’re going to continue to do as much as we can with our authorities.”

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Minimum-wage talks restart as progressive and moderate Democrats reportedly huddle with Chuck Schumer

Chuck Schumer Bernie Sanders
Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) during a Capitol Hill press conference in 2018.

  • Democratic Senators are meeting on Tuesday to discuss a minimum wage increase, HuffPo reports.
  • The meeting will include all 7 moderate Democrats who voted against the increase in the stimulus.
  • Bernie Sanders of Vermont has been adamant that the minimum wage can be no less than $15 an hour.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Although a federal minimum wage increase to $15 an hour didn’t make it into the stimulus bill, Senate Democrats are meeting today to find a way to get it done somehow, a Democratic source told HuffPost.

According to the source, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer will meet with the progressive senators who led the push for the $15 minimum wage increase, including Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Patty Murray of Washington, and Ron Wyden of Oregon. But the meeting will also include all seven moderate Democrats who voted against the $15 minimum wage hike: Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, Chris Coons of Delaware, Tom Carper of Delaware, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, and Jon Tester of Montana.

When the Senate parliamentarian voted against including a minimum wage increase in the stimulus bill, Sanders – who co-sponsored a bill to raise the wage to $15 an hour by 2025 – promised he wouldn’t give up on efforts to get the job done.

“But let me be very clear: If we fail in this legislation, I will be back,” Sanders told reporters on March 1. “We’re going to keep going and, if it takes 10 votes, we’re going to raise that minimum wage very shortly.”

And in a call with reporters on Friday, progressive lawmakers, including Rep. Ro Khanna of California, joined labor leaders and activists to strategize how they could pass a minimum wage increase through Congress, whether by reconciliation or attaching it to a must-pass bill.

“There needs to be a clear plan, a clear strategy,” Khanna told The Washington Post in an interview. “It’s not enough to just say, well, we’re committed to this, we want to get it done.”

Manchin has previously said that a $15 minimum wage increase is too high and advocated for an $11 per hour increase instead. However, Sanders has remained adamant on achieving a $15 per hour increase to lift Americans out of poverty.

“In my mind, the great economic crisis that we face today is half of our people are living paycheck to paycheck,” Sanders said on Twitter on March 5. “And many millions of workers are, frankly, working for starvation wages. Raising the minimum wage is what the American people want, and it’s what we have got to do.”

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A proposal to raise the minimum wage was killed in the Senate after 8 Democrats voted against the bill

joe manchin 20
WASHINGTON, DC – DECEMBER 14: Senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, speaks during a news conference with a bipartisan group of lawmakers as they announce a proposal for a Covid-19 relief bill on Capitol Hill, on Monday, December 14, 2020 in Washington, DC. Lawmakers from both chambers released a $908 billion package Monday, split into two bills.

  • Eight Senate Democrats broke from the majority and voted against the minimum wage hike proposal.
  • A number of the dissenters cited a need to protect struggling businesses from increased labor costs.
  • The hike was nixed from the current stimulus package following a ruling from the Senate parliamentarian.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Eight Senate Democrats broke from the majority and voted on Friday against the $15 minimum wage hike proposed by Sen. Bernie Sanders.

The vote scrapped Sanders’ push for the provision to be added back into the stimulus package being negotiated in Congress, after Senate parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough ruled that it should be nixed.

MacDonough ruled that the minimum wage increase violates the “Byrd Rule,” which prohibits “extraneous” policies as part of a reconciliation bill or resolution.

“It is hard for me to understand how drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge was compliant with the Byrd rule, but raising the minimum wage is not,” Sanders said.

President Joe Biden has also expressed support for gradually raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

The bill was abandoned in the Senate after eight Democrats voted against the proposal:

Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia

Joe Manchin
WASHINGTON, DC – FEBRUARY 05: Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) speaks to the press near the Senate subway following a vote in the Senate impeachment trial that acquitted President Donald Trump of all charges on February 5, 2020 in Washington, DC. After the House impeached Trump last year, the Senate voted today to acquit the President on two articles of impeachment as the trial concludes.

Manchin, a moderate Democrat who holds Byrd’s former Senate seat, had previously expressed disapproval of the minimum wage hike, standing with the Senate parliamentarian MacDonough.

“My only vote is to protect the Byrd Rule: Hell or high water,” the senator told CNN in February. “Everybody knows that. I’m fighting to defend the Byrd Rule. The President knows that.”

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona

Democratic senators-elect Kyrsten Sinema (L) (D-AZ) and Jacky Rosen (R) (D-NV) walk to the office of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer for a meeting at the U.S. Capitol November 13, 2018 in Washington, DC.
Democratic senators-elect Kyrsten Sinema (L) (D-AZ) and Jacky Rosen (R) (D-NV) walk to the office of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer for a meeting at the U.S. Capitol November 13, 2018 in Washington, DC.

Sinema, another key moderate who had previously thrown cold water on the minimum wage hike, also voted against the proposal on Friday. To represent her “nay” vote, the Arizona senator dramatically voted with a “thumbs-down” to the Senate clerk, sparking backlash from progressive senators.

Despite her “thumbs-down” vote, Sinema said in a statement that she would be open to renegotiating a minimum wage increase “separate” from the relief package.

“Senators in both parties have shown support for raising the federal minimum wage, and the Senate should hold an open debate and amendment process on raising the minimum wage, separate from the COVID-focused reconciliation bill,” Sinema said in a statement.

Sen. Jon Tester of Montana

jon tester montana
Sen. Jon Tester, D-MT, delivers opening remarks during a confirmation hearing of Denis McDonough, Secretary of Veterans Affairs nominee of U.S. President Joe Biden, before the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee in Washington, D.C., U.S., January 27, 2021.

Tester voted against the proposal on Friday. Manchin said he and Tester hoped the spending in the stimulus package as a whole would be better “targeted” and “helping the people that need help the most.”

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire

Jeanne Shaheen
Incumbent U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., raises her arms after claiming victory at a gathering with supporters, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020, in Manchester, N.H. Shaheen faced Republican businessman Corky Messner. (

Shaheen’s office told Boston.com, the news site for the Boston Globe, in a statement that the senator from New Hampshire supports the minimum wage hike, but only with “safeguards” to protect small businesses and restaurants that have borne the economic brunt of the coronavirus pandemic to ensure they “don’t go under.”

“I also think we should work with some of those folks who are affected to help figure out how we can get them through an increase in the minimum wage,” Shaheen told WMUR9. “We have nursing homes in New Hampshire who are having difficulties employing people because of the wage scale.”

Sen. Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire

maggie hassan
Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., speaks during the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on “Threats to the Homeland”, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., September 24, 2020.

Another senator from New Hampshire, Hassan, rejected the minimum wage hike proposal. Like Shaheen, Hassan said she supports a separate bill to push the increase through Congress rather than bulking it with the stimulus package.

“Well so there’s isn’t going to be an increase in the minimum wage in this package,” Hassan said in an interview with WMUR9. “That being said, I think it’s really important that we all recognize that people who work 40 hours a week should be able to get by. They shouldn’t be living at or below the poverty level when they’re working hard.”

Sen. Angus King of Maine

angus king
U.S. Senator Angus King (I-ME) is seen in the Senate Reception room during the fifth day of the impeachment trial of former U.S. President Donald Trump in Washington, U.S., February 13, 2021.

King, an independent from Maine who typically caucuses with Democrats, also voted against Sanders’ proposal. He told The Wall Street Journal last week that, while he supports increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour, he expressed concern that increase labor costs could prompt businesses to make lay off employees.

During the pandemic, “a lot of restaurants are just hanging on by the thread,” he said.

Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware

Tom Carper
WASHINGTON, DC – JUNE 17: U.S. Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) speaks during a hearing of the Finance Committee at which U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer testified on June 17, 2020 in Washington, DC. Earlier, Lighthizer told the House Ways and Means Committee that the U.S.-China trade deal shows no signs of weakening despite recent conflicts including issues involving the pandemic and China’s crackdown on Hong Kong.

Two senators from Delaware, Sens. Carper and Coons, were surprising dissenters to the minimum wage hike, especially hailing from Biden’s home state where local Democrats have thrown their support behind such a policy.

Carper threw cold water on the proposal on Friday, citing a need to protect struggling businesses from the increased labor costs.

“I have backed a $15 minimum wage on the federal level for years,” Carper said in a statement to Delaware Online. “At a time when our economy is still slowly recovering, though, policymakers have a responsibility to be especially mindful of the fragile state of small businesses all across this country – many of which are fighting just to stay open during this unprecedented crisis.”

Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware

Chris Coons
WASHINGTON, DC – JULY 30: Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) asks a question to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during a Senate Foreign Relations to discuss the Trump administration’s FY 2021 budget request for the State Department on July 30, 2020 in Washington, DC.

Like the other senators who dissented, Coons said he was concerned about how the minimum wage increase would impact small businesses.

“Every Democrat and many Republicans agree that the federal minimum wage of $7.25 is too low and has been for too long,” Coons said in a statement to Delaware Online. “It has to be raised. President Biden has called for us to raise it to $15 an hour. I will work with my colleagues on legislation to raise the minimum wage and index it annually.”

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