House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said President Joe Biden does not have the authority to unilaterally forgive student loans. At a press conference Wednesday, the speaker rebuffed calls by top Democrats to forgive large amounts of student loan debt, according to U.S. News.com.
''People think that the president of the United States has the power for debt forgiveness," she said. "He does not. He can postpone, he can delay, but he does not have that power. That has to be an act of Congress."
The speaker’s conclusion aligns with the Trump Administration’s position on the subject. Earlier this year, the previous administration said it would be illegal for the executive branch to order the forgiveness of all or some of the student debt held by Americans.
Pelosi's remarks come in stark contrast to high profile Democrats including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Senate Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois, and Democrat Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. They are part of a growing number of progressives in the House calling on Biden to use his executive power to cancel up to $50,000 in student loan debt for 40 million borrowers.
Pelosi said that not only does Biden not have the authority to forgive the loans, but that she was not in favor of wide-spread loan ''forgiveness.'' The speaker said, ''I don't even like to call it forgiveness because that implies a transgression," she said. "It's not to be forgiven, just freeing people from those obligations."
President Biden earlier this year said that he would not cancel loans of $50,000 or more. It is unclear what his position is on loans of smaller amounts, but the speaker’s statements put prospects for any forgiveness program in doubt.
Biden has asked the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Education to review the legal authority of the executive branch.
''They are likely to reach the same conclusion as the one reached by Speaker Pelosi,'' higher education expert Mark Kantrowitz told U.S. News.