House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., had some blunt words for President Joe Biden this week – warning him that he doesn’t have the power to deliver one of his core campaign promises.
Critics said she pulled rank on the 46th president by publicly warning: It has to go through her first.
The issue is student loan forgiveness, a key talking point throughout 2020 – and since the election, the far-left wing of the party has been pressuring Biden to act by executive order to cancel billions in debt.
But Pelosi said forget it.
“People think that the president of the United States has the power for debt forgiveness. He does not,” Pelosi said this week. “He can postpone. He can delay. But he does not have that power. That has to be an act of Congress.”
Translation: You can’t do this… but I can.
And in this case, she may not want to. Pelosi also said student loan forgiveness is patently unfair to people who don’t have student loans.
“Suppose your … child just decided at this time they did not want to go to college, but you’re paying taxes to forgive somebody else’s obligations,” she said. “You may not be happy about that.”
That drew anger from within her own conference.
“Suppose your child did not want to go fight countless and endless shadow wars across the globe, at this time, but you’re paying taxes to fund all of that,” Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., wrote on Twitter. “You may not be happy about it!”
Pelosi’s point, oddly enough, echoes one conservative leaders have made.
And even Biden has backed off at least a little, saying he’ll only go so far.
“The idea that you go to Penn and you’re paying a total of 70,000 bucks a year and the public should pay for that?” he told the New York Times in spring. “I don’t agree.”
He was far more open to the issue on the campaign trail last year – especially in spring, when he courted progressives during the primaries.
“We should forgive a minimum of $10,000/person of federal student loans, as proposed by Senator Warren and colleagues,” Biden said in March 2020. “Young people and other student debt holders bore the brunt of the last crisis. It shouldn’t happen again.”
Now that they’ve won those elections, Democrats are at odds not just with Republicans… but with each other.
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Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., took a completely different position from Pelosi.
Schumer, Politico said, wants Biden to cancel out $50,000 in debt per student – something he insisted the president can do with “the flick of a pen.”
“To make borrowers repay their debts now would be unfair, would be harsh and in many instances would be cruel,” he said this week, according to the Washington Post. “People were thrown off their stride by covid. Give them a chance to recover.”
But each dollar cancelled would add up to hundreds of billions of dollars shouldered by taxpayers.
The Brookings Institution estimates that canceling $10,000 in debt per student would cost $373 billion, while cancelling $50,000 would cost about a trillion and forgiving all of it would require about $1.6 trillion.
Rather than try to sell Americans on yet another massive spending package, Biden has used his go-to delay tactic: He’s ordered a group to study the idea.
The White House has asked both the Justice and Education departments to determine if he has the authority to cancel loans.
“They are likely to reach the same conclusion as the one reached by Speaker Pelosi,” higher education expert Mark Kantrowitz told CNBC.
And that means the simmering feud over the issue on the left could threaten to turn into an all-out war ahead of next year’s midterm elections.
— Walter W. Murray is a reporter for The Horn News. He is an outspoken conservative and a survival expert.