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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Wednesday said that President Biden lacks the "power" to cancel large amounts of student loan debt.

Why it matters: Pelosi's statements are in contrast with other top Democrats — including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer — who have called for the president to cancel as much as $50,000 of student loan debt per borrower.

  • The White House has previously said that it was evaluating whether it has the legal powers to cancel student loan debt, per Politico.

The big picture: Americans owe roughly $1.6 trillion in student loans, and the current moratorium on payments is slated to end on Sept. 30.

  • Schumer on Tuesday urged for the moratorium to be extended, saying the president should give people a "chance to recover" from the pandemic.
  • Earlier this month, the administration canceled $55.6 million in student loan debt for victims of for-profit college fraud.
  • Biden has already indicated that he would be unwilling to cancel more than $10,000 per borrower.

What they're saying: “The president can’t do it — so that’s not even a discussion,” Pelosi said during a news conference.

  • "Not everybody realizes that, but the president can only postpone, delay but not forgive student loans. It would take an act of Congress, not an executive order, to cancel student loan debt," she continued.
  • “The administration has the power to do this with the stroke of a pen, so we're calling on them to do it,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said, per Politico.

Go deeper

Sep 15, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Democrats plot debt-limit options

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer leave the U.S. Capitol this week. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Democratic leadership in the House and Senate are working on a short-term funding bill — which needs to pass before Oct. 1 to avoid a government shutdown — that includes a debt-limit increase.

Why it matters: The country will default on its debt in October for the first time in U.S. history if Congress doesn't increase the federal debt limit. Republicans and Democrats have entered a standoff — daring the other side to blink.

Sep 17, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Biden bombs with Manchin

Then-Vice President Joe Biden conducts a ceremonial swearing-in for Sen. Joe Manchin in 2010. Photo: Tom Williams/Roll Call

President Biden failed to persuade Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) to agree to spending $3.5 trillion on the Democrats' budget reconciliation package during their Oval Office meeting on Wednesday, people familiar with the matter tell Axios.

Why it matters: Defying a president from his own party — face-to-face — is the strongest indication yet Manchin is serious about cutting specific programs and limiting the price tag of any potential bill to $1.5 trillion. His insistence could blow up the deal for progressives and others.

Updated 44 mins ago - Science

Huge wildfire reaches edge of Sequoia National Park

A plume of smoke and flames rise into the air as the fire burns towards Moro Rock during the KNP Complex fire in the Sequoia National Park near Three Rivers, California, on Saturday. Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

Firefighters in Sequoia National Park were working into the night after two wildfires merged to reach the Giant Forest Saturday.

Why it matters: This forest contains over 2,000 giant sequoias, including the General Sherman Tree — the world's largest tree by volume. Park officials wrapped the redwoods in foil last week as the Paradise and Colony Fires, now known as the KNP Complex Fire, neared. Protection efforts appeared to be working overnight.