House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday pushed back on Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s call for President Joe Biden to unilaterally cancel hundreds of billions in student debt, Politico reports.
Schumer, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and Rep. Ayanna Pressley on Tuesday renewed calls for Biden to forgive up to $50,000 in student debt per person through an executive order.
“We urge President Biden to act with urgency,” Pressley said. “Failure to act would be unconscionable, would undermine our economic recovery.”
“The choice about what to pay will fall hardest on the most vulnerable among us,” Warren said.
All three argued that Biden had the legal authority to cancel debt himself.
“All President Biden has to do is flick his pen, sign it,” Schumer said.
Pelosi on Wednesday rejected her senate counterpart’s argument.
“The president can’t do it,” Pelosi said. “That’s not even a discussion… the president can only postpone, delay but not forgive.”
The speaker argued that only Congress can cancel student debt, echoing an argument made by Biden.
But Pelosi also made clear that she is not on board with the plan, regardless of how it would be enacted.
“Suppose … your child just decided they, at this time, [do] not want to go to college, but you’re paying taxes to forgive somebody else’s obligations. You may not be happy about that,” Pelosi said, echoing Republican arguments against other forms of social welfare.
Progressive lawmakers pushed back on Pelosi’s argument on Wednesday.
“Suppose your child did not want to go fight countless and endless shadow wars across the globe, at this time, but you’re paying taxes to fund all of that,” Rep. Rashida Tlaib said on Twitter. “You may not be happy about it!”
Biden himself opposes canceling up to $50,000 per borrower but called on Congress to pass legislation to cancel up to $10,000 per person. The president said earlier this year that the administration would review his legal authority to cancel student debt but there has been no update on that in months.
“Trump administration officials at the Education Department in January issued a legal opinion that concludes the agency lacks the power to cancel large swaths of student loan debt without legislation,” Politico reported. “The Biden administration is not bound to follow that legal opinion, but it has not publicly rescinded or changed the memo, which remains posted on the Education Department’s website.”