House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Wednesday that President Joe Biden does not have the legal authority to forgive federal student loans in what appears to be a disagreement with other top Democrats.
For months, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has issued near-daily tweets insisting that Biden forgive all student loans.
But during a weekly press conference, Pelosi said Biden can only pause or delay student loan payments and cannot unilaterally cancel them.
“He can postpone, he can delay, but he does not have that power,” Pelosi told reporters. “That would best be an act of Congress.”
Schumer and other progressive Democrats have argued that Biden can forgive student loans using the same legal provision that former President Donald Trump used to delay payments on loans and interest starting in March 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The recent comments from Pelosi are sure to trigger pushback from some Democrat lawmakers.
On Tuesday, Schumer, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) called on the president to extend a pause on student loan payments and move on forgiving debts.
“To make borrowers repay their debts now would be unfair, would be harsh, and in many instances would be cruel. People were thrown off their stride by COVID. Give them a chance to recover,” Schumer said, adding that the president has the “existing legal authority” to cancel up to $50,000 in debt.
“Every day that goes by, that sword draws a little closer. The President can remove this sword, and can remove this pain, by canceling $50,000 or more in student loan debt,” said Warren, who has long championed loan forgiveness, in her own remarks Tuesday.
If a student loan forgiveness bill is introduced in Congress, it appears unlikely that there will be enough votes for it. Some moderates have said that canceling student loan debt would be unfair to those who have already paid their debt off.