Democrats have pushed for the Biden administration to forgive tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt, but that effort may be for nothing, as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says President Joe Biden simply does not have the authority to flick his pen and make that decision unilaterally.
One of the leading proponents of student loan debt forgiveness has been Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Schumer, together with Democrat Sen. Elizabeth Warren and leftist Rep. Ayanna Pressley, called on the president on Tuesday to extend the current student loan debt payment moratorium until next spring — and to cancel $50,000 in debt to borrowers.
As detailed in the Daily Wire, Schumer wore a “Cancel Student Debt” mask and said, “All President Biden has to do is flick his pen, sign it, make America a happier, better, more prosperous place.”
As vehement as progressives are in trying to push Biden to make that call, Pelosi is not on board. During a briefing on Wednesday, Pelosi said that the call was simply outside the scope of the president’s authority — effectively sending them crashing back down to reality.
“People think that the president of the United States has the power for debt forgiveness. He does not,” she said. “He can postpone, he can delay, but he does not have that power. That has to be an act of Congress.”
“I do think that what the president is putting forth in Build Back Better, in terms of opportunity for all Americans whether they go to college or not — you know, they may not even aspire to that, and that’s fine, and that’s fine — but we do want to give them vocational training or other opportunity so they can reach their fulfillment as well,” she said.
Pelosi dug in even further, presenting a hypothetical situation in which a family with a child who decides against college would not be happy with having to pay for someone else’s college tuition debts, who in her words would have to effectively “forgive somebody else’s obligations.”
“We want all of our kids to reach their fulfillment,” added Pelosi. “To the extent that they want to go to college, we do not want them to be prohibited from doing that for financial reasons.”
Pelosi’s remarks are in line with Biden’s own statements. In February, the president expressed his unwillingness to forgive $50,000 in student debt obligations, saying he didn’t believe he had the authority to do so. Biden says he may have the authority to forgive $10,000 per borrower — but he has made little effort to actually do so, in spite of pressure from progressives.
CNBC reported that student debt forgiveness did not make the cut in Biden’s annual budget, explaining via education expert Mark Kantrowitz that Biden still had to wait for the U.S. Department of Justice and the Department of Education to report on their review of his legal authority to enact such a drastic measure.
“The ball,” Kantrowitz suggested, “will be in Congress’ court.”