President Joe Biden earlier this week announced he would extend the pause on student loan payments until the end of 2022 and forgive up to $10,000 for those making less than $125,000 per year.
Biden also said he would forgive up to $20,000 for Pell Grant recipients who make less than $125,000 annually.
The announcement came as a surprise because Biden had long opposed forgiving student debt -- and he wasn't the only Democrat who disliked the idea.
Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi even dismissed it as illegal.
Pelosi On Student Debt
In July 2021, as progressives pushed Biden to forgive at least some student debt amid the coronavirus pandemic, Pelosi insisted presidents lacked the authority to do so.
At a press conference, Pelosi claimed that only Congress could make such decisions.
"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. That has to be an act of Congress," she said at the time, as reported by National Review.
What Pelosi Said
Pelosi added at that same conference that this is not even up for debate.
"The President can’t do it. So that’s not even a discussion. Not everybody realizes that. But the President can only postpone, delay, but not forgive," the House speaker said.
She also stated that such a policy would not be fair to people who paid off their loans, asking the public to imagine a scenario in which "your child just decided they want to -- at this time, not want to go to college, but you’re paying taxes to forgive somebody else’s obligations."
Pelosi Has Changed Her Mind
Pelosi seems to have changed her mind on debt forgiveness and presidential authority.
As soon as news broke that Biden is forgiving some student debt, Pelosi welcomed the idea.
"Well, we’re excited about the president because we didn’t know what -- what authority the president had to do this. And now clearly, it seems he has the authority to do this: $10,000 for those … making under $125,000 a year," she told reporters.
Can Presidents Cancel Debt?
During the 2020 Democratic Party presidential primaries, progressive candidates such as Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont vowed to wipe out all student and medical debt.
Some experts at the time claimed -- just like Pelosi did back in 2021 -- that presidents do not have the authority to do this, but according to The American Prospect they do.
The publication claims that presidents can cancel debt due to a statue known as "compromise and settlement" authority granted to the Department of Education in 1958 and codified a decade later.