She’s correct on the authority issue, but the surprise is how far Nancy Pelosi went in rebuking progressives on student-loan debt. Chuck Schumer has pressed Joe Biden to use his executive authority to cancel up to $50,000 in debt for each borrower, claiming that Biden can do so with “a flick of a pen.” Nonsense, Pelosi responded yesterday:
“People think that the president of the United States has the power for debt forgiveness,” Pelosi said during her weekly news conference on Wednesday.
“He does not. He can postpone, he can delay, but he does not have that power. That has to be an act of Congress.”
Pelosi said the subject should be taken up by Congress as a matter of policy.
“That’s a policy discussion,” she said. “But the president can’t do it, so that’s not even a discussion. Not everybody realizes that, but the president can only postpone, delay and not forgive.”
Pelosi has good reason to insist on this. In the first place, she’s just simply correct. The student-loan program exists in statute, and Congress would have to modify it to allow presidents to unilaterally forgive debt. Constitutionally, however, one has to marvel at the leader of a chamber of Congress arguing in effect that the co-equal branch doesn’t matter one whit. If people wonder why we have an imperial presidency, Schumer’s marginalization of the legislative branch provides a clear example. Pelosi’s stance as a leader of the other chamber is much more constitutionally sound.
However, Pelosi didn’t just stop on jurisdiction. She scoffed at the entire idea of debt forgiveness:
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday rejected efforts by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and other progressives to convince President Joe Biden to unilaterally cancel large amounts of student loan debt, exacerbating a growing rift in the Democratic party over the issue.
Pelosi said that Biden unequivocally lacks the executive authority to cancel student loan debt and also questioned the wisdom and fairness of such a policy, which has been a major priority for the left in recent years.
“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,” Pelosi said during a press conference. “You may not be happy about that.”
That’s, er, certainly an interesting philosophical statement coming from a San Francisco progressive. Dave Weigel noticed the implications, too:
"What if you had to pay taxes for a service you don't personally use at that moment" is a dangerous road for a Democrat to go down https://t.co/0mPFLxt90E
— Dave Weigel (@daveweigel) July 28, 2021
Yeah, that’s a direction that eventually undermines the entire progressive agenda — even those programs Pelosi supports. If you and/or your loved ones aren’t going to directly benefit from the economic consequences of the Green New Deal, should that alone dictate your opposition to it? What about spending on all of the pork that Democrats want to re-enable with earmarks?
Conservatives will answer with a resounding yes, of course, as would I. Unless Pelosi has suddenly become a Tea Partier rather than a progressive, though, this is a statement so much against interests that one has to wonder whether Pelosi even understood the argument she was making.
Her fellow progressives certainly did:
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. You may not be happy about it! https://t.co/jlJ5uEU9F9
— Rashida Tlaib (@RashidaTlaib) July 28, 2021
At the base of this, Pelosi’s correct on student-loan debt forgiveness. Wiping out debt for the subset of people who got the benefit of education at the expense of people who didn’t might thrill progressives, but it will divide the Democrats on a class basis at the precise time that the GOP is making inroads with working-class voters. That’s not politically sustainable, even in an era of mass-printed cash.