(CNN)President Joe Biden’s education loan forgiveness plan may cost about $24 billion each year, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told CNN Thursday evening.
“Let’s assume that 75% of people that take this on, the President’s education loan cancellation plan, and you also consider the average monetary, cashflow on that, it will likely be about $24 billion each year,” she said on “Don Lemon Tonight.”
Pushed by Lemon on if the White House will to push out a detailed cost estimate, Jean-Pierre said that they can share additional information once they observe how many Americans make use of the plan.
The White House had struggled for another straight day to answer questions about Biden’s plan, simultaneously claiming that the President waited for the program to be “fiscally balanced” before unveiling it and that there is no way to learn just how much the program would cost.
At a news briefing earlier Thursday, Jean-Pierre continued to insist that the program to cancel thousands in federal education loan debt for an incredible number of Americans would “be fully covered due to the work that President did with the economy.”
Asked specifically if the administration had an improved idea concerning the total price for this program, Jean-Pierre began her answer by saying “the President’s record on fiscal responsibility is first rate” before detailing a listing of his economic accomplishments. But she didn’t offer an estimate on what much the program could cost through the briefing.
“All this with regards to cost may also depend on just how many of the loans canceled were actually likely to be repaid, it’ll depend on just how many borrowers actually use up this opportunity before we’ve a genuine sense,” she said.
Through the entire briefing, the press secretary was pressed on the numbers. She claimed the administration didn’t believe the move would raise the deficit, due to “the $1.7 trillion … we’ve done the task to lower the deficit” — discussing an administration projection of just how much the federal deficit will shrink in fiscal year 2022 — and the “$50 billion each year will probably return back” to the Treasury once education loan repayments begin in December.
She claimed the Treasury “was getting zero going back 2 yrs,” as repayments were paused, but on Wednesday Deputy Director of the National Economic Council Bharat Ramamurti said that about $2 billion monthly continues to be being repaid by borrowers through the pause, in comparison to $6 billion monthly normally.
The White House offered a far more pointed defense of its education loan cancellation anticipate Twitter, calling out GOP critics who’ve had Paycheck Protection Program loans forgiven.
“Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene had $183,504 in PPP loans forgiven,” one White House tweet said in reaction to the Georgia Republican’s criticism of Biden’s plan. “Congressman Matt Gaetz had $482,321 in PPP loans forgiven,” another read in reaction to similar complaints from the Florida lawmaker.
The White House tweeted similar responses to criticism from GOP Reps. Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania, Vern Buchanan of Florida and Markwayne Mullin and Kevin Hern of Oklahoma.
Asked Thursday if the administration would eventually to push out a cost estimate, Jean-Pierre said the “Department of Education will take the lead.”
Asked why the President waited to such a long time to create his decision to cancel your debt, she said Biden “wished to take action in a fiscally balanced way. And there is that legal review. … We wished to make certain the legal review was done.”
But pressed on what it may be fiscally responsible without public cost estimate no specifics on what the plan will be covered or who shell out the dough, Jean-Pierre insisted the administration does “not see this as irresponsible.”
“We usually do not see this as irresponsible,” she said. “We see this as a fiscally responsible, balanced method of doing this. I recall folks have said, ‘Why not do $50,000?’ We don’t wish to accomplish that because you want to ensure that we do that in a fiscally responsible way. Again, not pleasing everyone, but ensuring we keep that promise, but additionally take action in a good, fiscally responsible way.”
Ramamurti had offered more explanation to CNN’s Phil Mattingly on Wednesday in the issue in providing a top-line number.
He said without focusing on how many borrowers subscribe, it could be difficult to learn the full total cost. “That plays a large role in what the price will likely be,” he said.
But beyond that, he said other factors made providing a company number difficult. He said you can find differing estimates of default rates, which may affect the full total figure. He added that providing relief would also generate additional tax revenue if those benefiting start smaller businesses or purchase homes.
This story has been updated with more information Thursday.
CNN’s Sam Fossum and Paul LeBlanc contributed to the report.