Personal finance

Pelosi says Biden doesn’t have power to cancel student debt

U.S. Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi arrives at a weekly news conference at the U.S. Capitol July 28, 2021 in Washington, D.C.
Alex Wong | Getty Images News | Getty Images

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi suggested on Wednesday that people who believe President Joe Biden can forgive student debt on his own are misinformed.

“The president can’t do it,” Pelosi said, at a press briefing. “That’s not even a discussion.”

Pelosi said any student debt forgiveness would have to be carried out by Congress. Other people in her party have said otherwise.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.; Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.; and Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., have repeatedly called on Biden to forgive $50,000 in federal student debt for all borrowers through executive action.

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“All you need is the flick of a pen,” Schumer has said.

Biden has asked the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Education to review his legal authority to forgive student debt. Decisions from those agencies are not yet public.

“They are likely to reach the same conclusion as the one reached by Speaker Pelosi,” said higher education expert Mark Kantrowitz.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Even if Biden doesn’t move to cancel the debt, Congress could still do so.

Given their razor-thin majority, Democrats might find it hard to pass legislation forgiving student loans, but they could include such a bill in the budget reconciliation process in the fall. That avenue wouldn’t require the support of Republicans.

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