House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has caved to partisan politics on the issue of sweeping student loan debt cancellation.
After President Joe Biden announced Wednesday his plan for widespread student loan forgiveness, Pelosi praised Biden for taking “bold action” that will help Americans.
“[Biden’s] bold action is a strong step in Democrats’ fight to expand access to higher education,” Pelosi said. “By delivering historic targeted student debt relief to millions of borrowers, more working families will be able to meet their kitchen table needs as they recover from the pandemic.”
Praise for the plan indicates that Pelosi has completely flip-flopped on the issue.
Indeed, Pelosi said on Tuesday that “now clearly, it seems [Biden] has the authority” to move forward with his plan.
But what did Pelosi say before?
Last year, Pelosi stated unequivocally that Biden lacks authority to unilaterally forgive student loan debt because that power rests with Congress.
“People think that the President of the United States has the power for debt forgiveness. He does not. He can postpone. He can delay. But he does not have that power,” Pelosi told reporters.
“That has to be an act of Congress,” she explained.
In fact, Pelosi said she opposes calling it student loan forgiveness “because that implies a transgression.” Instead, Pelosi said that canceling student loan debt is “just freeing people from those obligations.”
Pelosi, however, did not stop there. She not only said that Biden lacks the authority to cancel loans, but she explained why taking such action is unfair.
“Suppose … your child just decided they, at this time, [do] not want to go to college, but you’re paying taxes to forgive somebody else’s obligations, you may not be happy about that,” Pelosi said.
So where is Biden getting the authority?
The Biden administration is relying on a 2003 law known as the HEROES Act as the legal authority to execute the plan.
The Education Department released a five-page legal memorandum on Wednesday that claims the nearly two-decade-old law gives the Biden administration “broad authority to grant relief from student loan requirements during specific periods (a war, other military operation, or national emergency, such as the present COVID-19 pandemic) and for specific purposes (including to address the financial harms of such a war, other military operation, or emergency).”
According to the government, the U.S. remains in a public health emergency. HHS disclosed last week that the Biden administration will extend the public health emergency declaration for another 90 days in October.