At a press conference on Thursday, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre continued to insist that the plan to forgive thousands of dollars in federal student loans for millions of Americans “would be paid in full for the work this president has done with the economy.”
When asked if the administration had a better idea of the total price tag for the program, Jean-Pierre began her response by saying that “the president’s record in fiscal responsibility is unmatched,” before listing his economic achievements. . But she never gave an estimate of how much the plan might cost.
“All of this, in terms of costs, will also depend on how much of the canceled loans would actually be repaid. It will depend on how many borrowers actually take this opportunity before we really have an idea,” she said.
She claimed the treasury has “got zero for the past two years” as repayments were interrupted, but on Wednesday, deputy director of the National Economic Council Bharat Ramamurti said that about $2 billion a month is still being repaid by the government during the break. borrowers, compared with normal up to $6 billion per month.
The White House offered a more focused defense of its student loan cancellation plan on Twitter, calling on GOP critics whose Paycheck Protection Program loans have been waived.
The White House tweeted similar responses to criticism from GOP representatives Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania, Vern Buchanan of Florida and Markwayne Mullin and Kevin Hern of Oklahoma.
Asked Thursday whether the administration would eventually release a cost estimate, Jean-Pierre said the “Department of Education will lead the way”.
Asked why the president took so long to make his decision to cancel the debt, she said Biden wanted “to do it in a fiscally balanced way. And there was that legal review. … We wanted to make sure that done the legal assessment.”
But pressing how it could be fiscally responsible with no estimate of public costs and no details about how the plan would be paid for or who would pay for it, Jean-Pierre stressed that the government “doesn’t see this as irresponsible”.
“We don’t see this as irresponsible,” she said. “We see this as a fiscally responsible, balanced approach to doing this. I remember people saying, ‘Why don’t you put in $50,000?’ We don’t want that because we want to make sure we’re doing this in a fiscally responsible way. Again, not doing everyone a favor, but making sure we deliver on that promise, but also doing it in a smart, fiscally responsible way.”
Ramamurti had given more explanation to CNN’s Phil Mattingly on Wednesday about the difficulty of giving a top number.
He said it would be difficult to know the total cost without knowing how many borrowers are signing up. “That plays a big part in what the costs will be,” he said.
But beyond that, he said other factors made it difficult to provide a fixed number. He said there are several estimates of defaults, which would affect the overall figure. He added that providing relief would also bring in additional tax revenue if those who benefit start small businesses or buy homes.
This story was updated Thursday with additional information.
Paul LeBlanc of CNN contributed to this report.