Aug 29, 2022 - Politics & Policy

GOP calls out Pelosi's comments on Biden lacking power to cancel debt

Photo of Nancy Pelosi speaking from a podium

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi speaks during a press conference at Southeast Health Center Clinic on Aug. 24, 2022 in San Francisco, California. Photo: Justin Sullivan via Getty Images

Ninety-four Republican lawmakers are calling on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to take action against President Biden's "unconstitutional and illegal" student loan forgiveness plan.

Why it matters: Pelosi said last year that Biden lacks the "power" to cancel large amounts of student loan debt and that only an "act of Congress" could provide broad debt relief. Republicans want her to stand by her words now that Biden has canceled up to $20,000 in student loans.

What they're saying: "This is an illegal act by a President desperate for a political win," 94 GOP lawmakers, led by Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.), wrote in a letter. "We hope you will heed your own words and act to defend the Constitution and the rule of law."

  • "Given your previously stated position and your leadership role as Speaker of the House, it is imperative that you act immediately in defense of our Constitution and the powers of the legislative branch," they said.
  • "Will you commit to supporting your July 2021 statement with definitive action to stand up to this blatant overreach President Biden is enacting?"

Republicans have also taken to social media to call out Pelosi.

  • "What’s changed her mind so suddenly?" Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) tweeted Monday.
  • "[T]here is no 'forgiveness' of student loan debt. Rather, this debt is transferred to the American taxpayer," Rep. French Hill (R-Ark.) said in a tweet about the letter to Pelosi.
  • "This is not fair, and overall bad economic policy. I do not support this forgiveness approach at the cost of the American taxpayer," Hill added.

Worth noting: Pelosi has shifted her rhetoric since Biden announced his student loan forgiveness plan.

  • "We didn't know what — what authority the President had to do this, she said last week at a Las Vegas roundtable. "And now clearly, it seems he has the authority to do this: $10,000 for those with the debt, those making under $125,000 a year. So we're optimistic about what might happen tomorrow."
  • Pelosi's office did not immediately return a request for comment.

The big picture: Republicans have claimed that Biden's plan will force lower-income Americans to take on the burden of payments that will mostly relieve Ivy League graduates.

  • The two-plus years of the student loan moratorium did benefit a lot of higher-income folks, but the policy announced last week by the Biden administration will mainly serve those who could use the help, Axios' Emily Peck writes.
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