- Nancy Pelosi said last year that Biden lacks the power to cancel student debt.
- But last week, Biden canceled up to $20,000 in student debt for federal borrowers.
- 94 GOP lawmakers called on Pelosi to stand by his past comments and hold Biden accountable.
Republicans want the Speaker of the House to stand up to President Joe Biden after canceling student debt.
To the dismay of many GOP lawmakers, Biden last week announced up to $20,000 in student loan forgiveness for Pell Fellowship recipients earning less than $125,000 a year, and up to $10,000 in student loan forgiveness. relief for other federal borrowers under the same income ceiling.
Prior to the relief, many critics of the plan argued that the president lacked the authority to implement sweeping loan forgiveness without congressional approval. A year ago, Speaker Nancy Pelosi was one of those critics, and on Friday, 94 Republicans called on her to do something about it.
Specifically, Pelosi said in July 2021 that “people think the President of the United States has the power to cancel debt. He doesn’t have it. He can defer, he can delay, but he doesn’t have that power. It has to be an act of Congress.”
Lawmakers, led by Georgia Rep. Jody Hice, want Pelosi to stand by those comments in a letter obtained by Fox News and declare the student loan forgiveness “unconstitutional and illegal”.
“Given your previously stated position and leadership role as Speaker of the House, it is imperative that you act immediately to defend our Constitution and the powers of the legislature,” they wrote in a letter. “Will you commit to backing up your July 2021 statement with definitive action to resist this blatant overreach that President Biden is putting in place?”
“This is an illegal act by a president desperate for political victory,” they added. “We hope you will listen to your own words and take action to defend the Constitution and the rule of law.”
However, Pelosi shifted gears on his past comments just a day before Biden announced his relief. During a roundtable in Las Vegas, Pelosi said that “we didn’t know what–what authority the president had to do this. And now it seems clear that he has the authority to do this: $10,000 for those in debt, those earning less than 125 $000 a year. So we’re optimistic about what could happen tomorrow.”
Even before Biden’s announcement, the legality of broad debt relief was widely debated. Shortly after taking office, Biden himself expressed hesitation about his power to write off much student debt, asking the education and justice departments to prepare memos outlining his ability. legal to do so. Both departments have concluded that the authority exists under the HEROES Act of 2003, which they say gives the Secretary of Education the power to waive or change borrowers’ student debt balances under a national emergency, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
While former President Donald Trump’s administration released a memo concluding that the president cannot cancel student debt without congressional approval, Biden’s education department has called for the memo to be rescinded. .
Yet, following Biden’s announcement, Trump Education Secretary Betsy DeVos called the move “100% illegal” and, as Insider previously reported, legal battles could arise further. late. But the White House remains convinced that the legal statute is there to cancel up to $20,000 in student debt for millions of borrowers.