Democrats at odds over student debt cancellation

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Wednesday that President Joe Biden does not have the power to forgive student loan debt, putting her at odds with some members of her own Democratic caucus as pressure mounts on the president to pay $50,000 in student loans per borrower. to forgive.

“People think the president of the United States has the power to cancel debt. He doesn’t,” Pelosi said in response to a question on her weekly news briefing. “He can delay, he can postpone, but he doesn’t have that power.”

The speaker said that student loan forgiveness should be through an act of Congress. She noted the exploratory debate about how much debt could be forgiven and for how many people, but argued that the president could not make the decision unilaterally.

Her comments came just one day after Senate Leader Chuck Schumer, of New York, Senator Elizabeth Warren, and Representative Ayanna Pressley, both of Massachusetts, held their own event calling on the president to extend the pause on federal student loan payments that expired at the end of the year. September and cancel up to $50,000 in student loans.

Schumer claimed that Mr. Biden could use his “existing legal authority” to forgive that debt. He said it would be even more helpful to borrowers, fuel the economy and deal with racial inequality exacerbated by the cost of education.

“With all this good stuff, President Biden just needs to tap his pen and sign it. Make America a happier, better and more prosperous country,” Schumer said Tuesday. He indicated that they are making progress with the Biden administration on the matter.

“The president can cancel $50,000 in student loans. He can wipe out all the debts of about 36 million Americans, that’s 85% of borrowers, and make the lives of the remaining 15% a lot easier,” Warren said.

Student loan debt has surpassed $1.7 trillion in the United States, making it the second largest American debt after mortgage debt. Thirty percent of all adults, or just over 4 in 10 people who attend college, say they have incurred at least some debt for their education, according to the Federal Reserve.

Pelosi, in response to a question from Wednesday, suggested that those with children who chose not to attend college might be “not happy” paying taxes to forgive the debts of others.

Pelosi instead praised Biden’s Build Back Better agenda, saying it provides opportunities for all Americans “whether they go to college or not.” The president’s plan, unveiled earlier this year, includes a proposal for a free community college and other training for staff development.

“We want all our children to achieve their satisfaction. As far as they want to go to college, we don’t want them to be banned for financial reasons,” Pelosi said.

The White House has not disclosed whether the president would waive student loans. In February, the president said he wouldn’t and Congress would have to step in. In April, his White House Chief of Staff said: no decision had been made, and the president had asked the Secretary of Education for a memo about his legal authority to forgive student loan debt.