Pelosi says Biden doesn’t have the power to cancel student loan debt, as Schumer pushes him to eliminate $50,000 per borrower

nancy pelosi chuck schumer
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speaks as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) looks on during a news conference about climate change on July 28, 2021.

  • Pelosi said that Biden does not have the power to cancel student loan debt.
  • The House speaker said student loan debt cancelation has to be “an act of Congress.”
  • Fellow Democrat Schumer has called for Biden to wipe out $50,000 in student loan debt.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Wednesday that President Joe Biden does not have the power to cancel student loan debt, though some of her Democratic colleagues, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, disagree.

The California Democrat told reporters during a press briefing that student loan debt is “a policy discussion” and that cancelation has to be “an act of Congress.”

“Here’s the thing. People think that the president of the United States has the power for debt forgiveness. He does not,” Pelosi said. “He can postpone, he can delay, but he does not have the power.”

“Not everybody realizes that,” she added.

Pelosi stands in opposition to Schumer, as well as Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, the two congressional Democrats leading the call for Biden to cancel $50,000 in student loan debt per borrower.

They claim that Biden can use his “existing authority” under the Higher Education Act to “immediately” wipe out debt for millions of borrowers across the country.

Approximately 45 million Americans have a $1.7 trillion student-debt burden. Borrowers on average have between $20,000 to $24,999 in college student loan debt, according to the Federal Reserve.

“President Biden can cancel $50,000 of student loan debt with the stroke of a pen,” Warren told Insider in June. “He doesn’t need Congress to act, he can do it on his own, and I hope that’s what he’s going to do.”

The pair re-upped their demands in a press event on Tuesday, arguing that student loan debt relief would help close the racial wealth gap and stimulate the economy.

“All President Biden has to do is flick his pen – sign it – make America a happier, better, more prosperous place,” Schumer said.

Warren compared student loan debt to a “sword hanging over” the heads of borrowers.

“Every day that goes by, that sword draws a little closer,” she said Tuesday. “This is a matter of economic justice. It is a matter of racial justice. The president of the United States can remove this sword. The president can prevent this pain.”

Spokespeople for Schumer and Warren did not immediately respond to Insider’s requests for comment on Wednesday.

On the 2020 campaign trail, Biden pledged to cancel up to $10,000 in student loan debt cancelation per person. Six months into his presidency, that has not come to pass.

The measure was left out his trillion-dollar economic plans released in May, and was also excluded from his $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan passed in March.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki reiterated Biden’s support to wipe out $10,000 per student loan debt borrower in February, but added that he wants to see the legislation first approved in Congress, believing that he did not have the ability to cancel it unilaterally.

Biden has started to rethink that position amid increasing pressure to cancel student loan debt from congressional Democrats, including Schumer and Warren, as well as civil rights groups and student organizations.

The White House has asked the Justice Department and Education Department to review whether Biden has the ability to cancel student loan debt via executive action. But neither the White House nor the federal departments have provided an update as to when that assessment will come.

Read the original article on Business Insider