James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

3:41 P.M. EDT

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right, good afternoon, everybody.  Welcome back. 

Oh, wow.  No excitement in the room.  (Laughs.)

Hello!  Hello. 

Q    Hello.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay.   

Q    We’ve got visitors today.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yes, we do.  So today is a great day for middle-class Am- — middle-class Americans and for our economy. 

And we are really excited to have Domestic Policy Advisor Ambassador Susan Rice and Deputy Director of the National Economic Council Bharat Amar- — Amaroti [Ramamurti].  Sorry, Bharat.  I always do this, and I apologize.

MR. RAMAMURTI:  (Inaudible.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I know, it’s not — yeah.  It’s not the first time. 

So they’re here with us today.  Ambassador Rice will discuss the President’s announcement today, as you just heard him in the Roosevelt Room — some of you were in there or your colleagues were — to provide — what — what we did today — the announcement that he did today to provide breathing room to student loan borrowers.  And then she and Bharat will take some questions. 

They have about 15 minutes.  So just giving you a heads up, they do have to leave to go to another meeting. 

With that, I will give it to Ambassador Rice to take — take it over.  

AMBASSADOR RICE:  Thank you, Karine.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No problem. 

AMBASSADOR RICE:  Good afternoon, everyone. 

Q    Good afternoon. 

AMBASSADOR RICE:  As you heard from President Biden a few minutes ago, the administration is taking a number of important steps to provide student loan borrowers with relief and improve the student loan system in ways that will help low- and middle-income students both now and in the future. 

This comprehensive plan does not just deliver on the President’s campaign commitment to provide student debt relief, it exceeds that promise, including by making changes that will benefit students for years to come.

First, the administration is extending the current pause on student loan repayments one final time until December 31st of this year.

Second, the Department of Education is providing up to $20,000 in debt cancellation to Pell Grant recipients with loans held by the Department of Education and $10,000 in debt cancellation to non-Pell Grant recipients.

This relief is targeted.  It will only go to borrowers whose income is less than $125,000 for an individual or $250,000 for a household — meaning that the relief will go to those who need it the most. 

Third, the administration is proposing critical reforms to the income-driven repayment plan that will ensure that current and future borrowers will have much smaller and more manageable monthly payments.

This new plan protects more low-income borrowers from making any payments, and caps monthly payments for undergraduate loans at 5 percent of a borrower’s discretionary income, meaning after essentials like rent and food.  That is half the rate that people currently pay today.

And borrowers making roughly the equivalent of $15 — the minimum wage — where that applies — won’t have to make any payments at all under this plan.

These changes will reduce the average annual student loan repayment by a thousand dollars a year. 

Fourth, thanks to temporary changes that the Department of Education has made to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, if you have worked in public service — for example, as a teacher, a government employee, a military service member — for 10 years, even if those years were not consecutive, you are eligible to have all of your federal student loans cancelled.

The Department of Education is working to make these changes permanent.  But in the meantime, more than 175,000 people just in the last year have taken advantage of these temporary changes and have had more than $10 billion in loans forgiven.

So my message to everybody today is: If you currently or previously have worked in public service, go now to PSLF.gov — PSLF.gov — to take advantage of this program.  But you must do so before October 31st.

Finally, the Department of Education is announcing new actions to hold accountable colleges that have contributed to the student debt crisis, including by publishing an annual watch list of the programs with the worst debt levels in the country and requesting improvement plans from the worst actors.

These actions build on steps the President has already taken to reduce the need to borrow, including by signing the largest increase to the maximum Pell Grant in over a decade and providing nearly $40 billion to colleges and universities through the American Rescue Plan, much of which was used for emergency student financial aid.

The President will continue fighting to double the maximum Pell Grant and to make community colleges universally free.

This is, as I said, a comprehensive plan that will provide meaningful relief to millions of Americans, both now and in the future. 

Targeting this relief to those who need it the most means that 90 percent of relief dollars — 90 percent of the relief dollars will go to those individuals earning less than $75,000 a year.

And no individual or couple in the top 5 percent of incomes in the United States will receive a penny of relief.

Of the 43 million eligible borrowers, more than 60 percent — or 27 million individuals — are Pell Grant recipients who are eligible to receive up to $20,000 in debt cancellation.  Over 60 percent.  Among Black borrowers, for example, 71 percent receive Pell Grants.

So, today’s announcement will have a significant impact on people who have been disproportionately impacted by student debt. 

Nearly two thirds of individuals — all debtors — will have half or more of their total debt wiped out, including the 20 million borrowers who will have their debt completely eliminated — that’s 45 percent of the total.  Twenty million borrowers will have their debt completely eliminated.  Two thirds will have half or more eliminated.

The actions we are announcing today are going to be good for our economy.

We are on track to cut the federal deficit by more than $1.7 trillion this year, the single largest deficit reduction ever.

And numerous experts affirm that restarting paused loan payments at around the same time as we provide targeted debt relief will not have any meaningful effect on inflation.

Finally, this action will ease the financial burden on millions of Americans and provide them with greater economic security to buy a house, start a family, open a business, or save for retirement.  And that is good for all Americans.

The President has always promised that he will build an economy from the bottom up and the middle out.  Today’s announcement is just one more step we are taking to make that a reality.

Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay.  All right, Bharat.  Come up.

AMBASSADOR RICE:  Come up.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Come on up.

All right, so we have about 15 minutes, as I just stated.  April, go ahead.

Q    Ambassador Rice, I have three questions, if you will.  One, what made the President move off of that $10,000 he was so adamant on to $20,000 as Chuck Schumer and the rest on Capitol Hill — Elizabeth Warren, Ayanna Pressley — were calling for $50,000? 

Also, when it comes to Pell Grants, your mother was known as the mother of the Pell Grant system.  President Biden just said himself that 80 percent of the money helped students, and now that money is going — has dropped down to 30 percent when it comes to Pell Grants.  Are you doing anything to bolster the Pell Grant system as you’re trying to relieve this — this student loan debt?

And lastly —

AMBASSADOR RICE:  Whoa, whoa, whoa.  Why don’t we take them one at a time, okay?  (Laughter.)

Q    All right.

AMBASSADOR RICE:  All right.  First of all, let’s talk about the Pell Grant.  Pell Grant is 50 years old this year. 

When the Pell Grant was established, it covered 80 percent of the cost of a four-year public institution.  Today, it’s now 30 percent.  That’s because costs of college have gone up and the relative size of the Pell Grant has gone down.

The President has been very clear, from the campaign forward, that he aims to double the maximum grant — the maximum size of the Pell Grant to around $13,000 from its current level around $6,500.

He has, in his budget requests, asked for incremental increases to get to that doubling.  And his FY23 budget request does that as well.  In the FY22 appropriation enacted, $400 was added to the maximum size of the Pell Grant, which, as I said in my remarks, is the largest increase in the decade.

With respect to the President’s posture on this, he’s been clear from the campaign that he was prepared to relieve up to $10,000 in broad-based cancellation.

He has listened and consulted and studied as — in partnership with the Department of Education, which obviously has the lead on this — as to what is the best approach. 

And after all of that consultation, the Secretary of Education made the determination that the best way to benefit those who need it most — consistent with the President’s campaign proposal, but actually more advantageous for those in the lower-income part of the spectrum, those who have been most harmed — would be to have that $20,000 of relief for those who were Pell Grant recipients below the income threshold, in addition to $10,000 for those also below the income threshold who were not Pell Grant recipients.

Q    And then my last question: Friday, there is a meeting, we understand, with the President and civil rights leaders on — all-encompassing, to include this.  Could you talk about that meeting by any chance?

AMBASSADOR RICE:  No, I can’t preview a meeting that hasn’t —

Q    So it is happening —

AMBASSADOR RICE:  — happened. 

Q    — though?

AMBASSADOR RICE:  I’m not — I can’t confirm that.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay.  Go ahead, Cecilia.

Q    Thanks.  Madam Ambassador, I have a couple of questions for you.  One, I want to get your general response to this overwhelming chorus of critics — Republicans, right now — who say this is unfair, that there are people who decided to not go to college because they couldn’t pay for it, there are people who decided to join the armed forces in lieu of going to college because they couldn’t pay for it, and this leaves them behind.  Is there inaccuracy in any of that?

AMBASSADOR RICE:  Yes, there is inaccuracy, but there’s also a double standard.  And this is a debate we are happy to have.

First of all, Republicans didn’t complain when certain small businesses during the pandemic got extraordinary financial relief and — without having to pay back those loans.  But — when some businesses needed it and other businesses didn’t need it.  This is the same principle.

We have a country where we all benefit when the middle and working class are doing well.  This relief will be targeted to those who need it most.  As I said, 90 percent of those who will benefit earn less than $75,000 a year.

So this is not a giveaway to rich people.  This is not any of the things that Republican critics have charged.  Yes, those who have paid their loans back deserve to be credited.  That’s fantastic.  That’s to their — to their credit.

But that doesn’t mean that those who are, for whatever reason, unable to pay back their loans — like, you know, one third of people have debt and no college degree.  That doesn’t mean that because the — some were able to do so, nobody should help those who weren’t.  By that logic, we wouldn’t help anybody in this country. 

Q    How much will this cost?  How much will Americans have to pay on this price tag overall?

AMBASSADOR RICE:  Well, that that remains to be determined, and it will be a function of what percentage of eligible borrowers actually take up this opportunity.

Q    $300 billion?  $500 billion?

AMBASSADOR RICE:  They — we’ll see what — when they take up the opportunity, we’ll be able to give you a much better sense of that.

Q    But are those numbers ballpark at this point?

AMBASSADOR RICE:  I think it depends on the numbers.  Like, you know, unfortunately — and I — we’re here to encourage as many people to take it up as possible — if 43 million borrowers take it up, that’ll be different than if 50 percent of those 43 million take it up.

Q    If it is 43 million, if I could just follow on — you know, if the full number of eligible borrowers do take advantage of the program, what would the cost be?

AMBASSADOR RICE:  I — I can’t give you that off the top of my head.

Q    Okay.  And just —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Wait, wait.  Let me —

AMBASSADOR RICE:  I thought you were running this, right?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah, I know.  I know.  (Laughter.)  She slipped in on me.  You’re right.  You’re right, Ambassador.  Go ahead, in the back.  Go ahead.

Q    Thank you.  Can you talk about, sort of, the timeline here from, sort of, when this now becomes available to borrowers and, sort of, how long they may have?  And I guess the, sort of — because I know the President talked about — you have to apply for this; this isn’t going to be automatic.  Right?  So, I mean, people may not even know necessarily if they’re eligible.  Right?

AMBASSADOR RICE:  Okay, so let — this is a great question.  Thank you for asking it.

First of all, anybody can go today to StudentAid.gov and provide their email address, and they will be notified when the website is available for people to fill out a very simple, short form attesting to their income and — and become eligible. 

Having said that as well, down the road, it is likely that as many as 8 million Americans are automatically eligible, because the Department of Education already has their income information — because they filled out a financial aid form, for example.

So we estimate that there’ll be some 20 percent, roughly, who will get automatic relief because they qualify and we know they qualify and can verify that.  Then, subsequently, over the coming weeks, but in advance of the — the pause expiring one final time, there will be the capacity for people to go to a Department of Education website and do the quick, short form attestation and become eligible.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Michael.

Q    Thank you.  Just a couple of quick technical questions.  Can you talk a little bit about the legal authority on which this program is based?

And is there a worry that colleges will not now be incentivized to simply raise tuition rates since they know, both because of the cancellation but also because of the reduction in the maximum payment, that people will have to pay going forward?  That should provide a buffer for colleges to just raise tuition because they know that more students will be able to afford the higher cost because their maximum will be — will be capped.

And just one last thing is just —

AMBASSADOR RICE:  Wait a minute.  Wait, wait.

Q    Okay.  Fair.

AMBASSADOR RICE:  Give me a few —

See, now you’ve already made me forget the first one.  (Laughs.)  The first — 

Q    The first one was the legal authority.

AMBASSADOR RICE:  Okay.  Congress gave the Secretary of Education, in the HEROES Act, the authority to do this.  And I’ll refer you to the Department of Education and their general counsel for the details. 

With respect to your second question about cost of colleges, you heard the President emphasize in his remarks and a key element of our plan is to ensure that colleges that have jacked up prices and taken advantage of students — particularly those that have made wild promises about how much people will be able to earn based on their degree program, which are not backed up by reality — and while people are earning — or are incurring huge volumes of debt, that is something that Department of Education has already cracked down on and is going to continue to crack down on. 

There’s also the reality that the American Rescue Plan provided — both in state and local funds, as well as in funds targeted to higher education — significant dollars that can and should be used to make sure that public institutions don’t increase their tuition and expenses greater than the rate of inflation. 

And the Department of Education is going to be vigilant.  They are going to publish annually a list of institutions that are the worst actors in terms of the delta between what they promise, what they charge, and what they deliver. 

Q    And finally, one last question: Is it possible for somebody to go out today and apply for a college loan, knowing that it’s — that it’s going to be canceled?

AMBASSADOR RICE:  No.

Q    Or is there — what is the date by which somebody had —

AMBASSADOR RICE:  You had to — the loans that are eligible for relief were those that were up until June 30th of this year.

Q    June 30th of this year —

AMBASSADOR RICE:  2022.

Q    (Inaudible.)  Thank you.

Q    Bharat, I’m not going to let you escape.

AMBASSADOR RICE:  No, he’s not going to escape.  (Laughter.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I was like, “Who’s going to ask Bharat a question?”
Q    I know there have been some officials that have taken issue with some of the topline estimates we’ve seen from outside groups in terms of cost, not to mention, kind of, the view of direct impact on inflation and how things may net out.

But if you can’t even give a topline figure for — if the uptake was everyone, how are you modeling this out?  And what gives you certainty even a tenth of a basis point in a very high inflation environment wouldn’t be problematic for people? 

MR. RAMAMURTI:  Great.  So, let’s take that in two parts. 

So, the first question is: What’s the cost?  And as Ambassador Rice said, there’s a number of factors that go into that question.  There’s the take-up rate, right?  Folks are going to have to go apply for relief. 

Our hope is that 100 percent of people who are eligible go apply for relief and get the relief that they’re entitled to.  I think, realistically, we’re not going to get to 100 percent.  But the question is: How far short of 100 percent are we going to be?  And that plays a big role in what the cost is going to be.

The second aspect is that — look, the student loan portfolio, there are different estimates about repayment rates and default rates, right? 

Right now, in the student loan portfolio, 16 percent of borrowers are in default.  And if you look at the category of borrowers, there’s millions of borrowers who are more than seven years in default.

The median amount of money that the Department of Education collects from those borrowers each year is zero dollars.  So even if those borrowers have a face value on their debt of $10,000, and this plan wipes it out, it’s not reasonable to say that the cost of that is $10,000 because we were not realistically going to collect anywhere close to $10,000 from it. 

So the assumptions and the analysis about how much are we expecting to collect — some of that changes over time based on certain macroeconomic conditions and other factors. 

The third thing we have to pay attention to here is: In evaluating the cost of this program, we have to also evaluate the benefits and how that will flow into revenue to the government. 

Now, our view is, based on a lot of good empirical literature, relieving student loan debt burden is going to help people start small businesses.  It’s going make it easier for certain folks to actually save for that down payment and buy a home.  All of that additional economic activity, in the medium term, is going to create additional tax revenue that comes into the government that offsets the cost on the front end. 

So the bottom line here is that there’s all these different factors that go into the cost.  Standing here today, I can’t tell you how all of those are going to shake out.  Part of it is that the Department of Education has to actually implement this policy; they have to get the application out.  We have to start getting data on how many people are applying.  And I think, then, you know, when that happens, we’ll have a better sense of what the cost is going to be.

On inflation, I think it’s good to take a step back and realize where we are today.  Today, the student loan payments are paused.  They’ve been paused since the previous administration, and it’s been extended multiple times by the Secretary of Education.  Because of the pause, you have 45 million borrowers who are not required to make a single dollar in payments right now.

What the President announced today was not only this debt relief but a resumption in payments on January 1st, 2023.  When you resume payments, what that means is that millions of borrowers are going to start making payments that come into the federal government.  It’s going to be billions of dollars a month in payments coming into the federal government. 

At the same time, of course, there is going to be relief going out to people.  And our view is that those two things — the relief going out to people and the money coming in from restart — largely offset each other. 

And we’re not alone in thinking that.  A number of independent experts who have weighed in on this topic today have said the exact same thing.  Mark Zandi at Moody’s said that, Mike Konczal at the Roosevelt Institute, and others that we can point you to. 

So our view is that these two will largely offset one another.  And, in fact, according to some independent experts, it could actually be deflationary, given all the money that’s coming in after payments resume. 

Q    Can I ask really quickly, though: How are you modeling assumptions about repayment when the same macro effects in terms of whether or not people are going to be prepared to repay, whether they’re going to be repaying immediately, when it actually happens?

MR. RAMAMURTI:  Yeah.

Q    Like, how can you make that assumption if you can’t make assumptions about even the uptake on the program?

MR. RAMAMURTI:  Sure.  Well, I can tell you: In the pre-pandemic, pre-pause era, each month the Department of Education would collect about $6 billion worth of payments from borrowers.

During the pause, believe it or not, a number of people are actually making payments voluntarily.  And so, we’re actually collecting about $2 billion in payments.  So that delta between what we would normally collect and what we’re collecting now is about $4 billion a month.

When we restart, the assumption would be that we would — roughly speaking; these are estimates — start collecting that $4 billion again, with a bit of a discount, because, obviously, certain borrowers are going get relief, including some borrowers who are going to have their loans completely wiped out. 

But the main thing we have to understand here is that, today, we are going to — we’re collecting $2 billion a month in voluntary payments.  And after the restart happens, we are going to be collecting something significantly above $2 billion a month from borrowers. 

And if you think about that, at a very basic level, that’s why there’s that deflationary impact from the restart. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  And just a couple more.

Q    Just to follow up on the legal authority, I know you said that we should check with the Department of Education, but in terms of at least the way the administration has talked about it, you’ve touted the economy and how it’s doing much better under the President’s management of the pandemic.  So how does that align with then using legal authority citing a pandemic emergency?

MR. RAMAMURTI:  Yeah.  I used to be a lawyer, but I’m not a lawyer anymore, so I don’t want to venture out, getting deep into the — into the legal authority here.  And I would refer you to the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel and also to the Department of Education Office of General Counsel. 

But I will make the point that there is a concern that when payments resume in January, that that’s going to lead to an increase in financial distress among borrowers. 

And so, for example, if you look at — there’s a small subset of borrowers for particular reasons who are not subject to the payment pause, so they’ve been having to make their payments throughout the pandemic. 

And what you’ve seen is that those borrowers are in more financial distress, they’ve been having a harder time making payments on other debts that they owe, and so on. 

So the concern is that when you restart payments, are a subset of borrowers going to end up defaulting on their loans?  Are they going to go into delinquency? 

And so, part of what the legal authority is being used to do here, in a targeted way, is to make sure that those borrowers who are at highest risk of distress after the restart happens, those are the people who are going to get the relief, because the legal authority gives the Secretary the ability to make sure that the pandemic and the emergency does not cause a net financial harm to those folks.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay, two more.  In the back, and then I’ll call you.

Q    Thank you.  If you take a closer look at the White House factsheet that was released, the White House cites a construction worker who makes $38,000 a year as a potential candidate for this student loan relief.  You also cite a $77,000-a-year-earning nurse. 

And that sounds great, but I’m wondering: Why did you structure this policy in a way that would provide up to $40,000 in debt for a married couple making up to $249,000?  I mean, why include folks who have gone to post-grad, you know, law school or business school?  Is that really bottom up, middle out?

MR. RAMAMURTI:  Yeah, it is.  You know, as we’ve made clear, nobody in the top 5 percent of incomes is going to get a single dollar under this proposal. 

And actually, we have very good data showing that folks even making in that range that we talked about — near the top of the income cutoff — are much more likely to be experiencing distress after repayment starts.  There’s good data on it. 

Now, look, again, as Ambassador Rice said, we welcome having this debate.  If you look at this chart, you can see that 87 percent of the dollars overall are going to people making under $75,000 a year.  And zero dollars — zero percent — are going to anybody making over $125,000 in individual income. 

And just because I’ve seen some criticism from Republicans on this today, it’s instructive to compare that to what the Republican tax bill did in 2017.  It’s basically the reverse: 15 percent of the benefits went to people making under $75,000 a year, and 85 percent went to people making over $75,000 a year.  And if you zoom in even more on that, people making over $250,000 a year got nearly half of the benefits of the GOP tax bill and are getting zero dollars under our bill. 

So we think that this is a classic example of what the President talks about in “middle up” economics.  It’s going to families that really need it.  And the vast majority of it is going to people making under $75,000 a year. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Last question.  Go ahead.

Q    So my question is: How did the administration come up with the $20,000 and $10,000 relief number?  Was there some kind of calculation into what would be inflationary and what is actually going to make an impact?

MR. RAMAMURTI:  Yeah.  Look, in terms of the Secretary’s decision and the President’s decision on this, there’s a number of factors that go into it. 

The President’s goal was to do something that he thought was fair, responsible, and consistent with his commitment to fiscal responsibility.  And the conclusion was that following through on his campaign commitment, doing $10,000 for most borrowers, and then adding this additional $10,000 for Pell recipients, which, it should be noted —

A couple of facts about Pell recipients:  Almost all of them come from families that make under $60,000 a year.  Half of them came from families that made under $30,000 a year. 

And targeting additional money to people who got Pell Grants also reflects the fact that when it comes to repaying your debt, part of what matters is your current income, but a big part of it too is what — how much wealth do you have, what assets can you rely upon.  You know, a lot of borrowers can rely upon family wealth to help make some of those payments, especially as they’re starting out. 

Pell Grant recipients, because they come from families with lower wealth, can’t rely on that family wealth as much.  In fact, some of them — many of them — are actually helping members of their family pay their other debts.

So we thought this was a fair and equitable thing to do.  It was fiscally responsible.  And the combination of those factors is why we arrived at this ultimate outcome.

Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Thanks, guys.  Thank you, Ambassador.

Thank you guys.

All right.  I have one quick thing at the top, and then we’ll get going with the rest of the briefing.

So the last time I stood before you all here, on August 9th, average national gas prices were $4.03.  Today, the average national prices are $3.88.  The most common price at gas stations across the country today is $3.49.

Prices have come down every single day since the last briefing.  In fact, they’ve come down every single day this summer — over 10 straight weeks.

This is the fastest decline in gas prices in over a decade, and it is saving families with two cars $120 per month on average.

President Biden promised he would address Putin’s price hike at the pump, and he has.  He’s releasing 1 million barrels of oil a day with the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.  He brought together international partners to release an unprecedented amount of oil.  And under President Biden’s leadership, U.S. oil production is up and on track to reach a record high.

The President will continue to call on domestic and international oil producers and refiners to increase output so that prices can continue to come down.

With that, go ahead, Aamer.

Q    Thank you.  First, I just wanted to follow up on something that came up in Kirby’s gaggle this morning.  He said that you have no damage assessment within the NSC going underway about — regarding the documents that were found in the FBI search at Mar-a-Lago.  And, I guess, my question is: Why?  Because from my understanding, there is an intelligence directive that calls for there to be a damage assessment to be conducted when there’s an actual or suspected breach of classified information.

I understand not wanting to get involved in the Justice Department’s investigation, but why isn’t the administration assessing what potential damage may have come from these documents?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, I’m just going to reiterate what you heard from my colleague.  We’re just not going to comment on any of the contents of the ongoing, independent Justice Department investigation.

Again — and I — you’ve heard this from me, you’ve heard this from others: When it comes to that, we would refer you to Department of Justice on that.

Q    I know.  And, respectfully, I would just — I’m not asking you to comment on the Justice Department’s investigation.  I’m asking you whether there is an assessment going on to just understand just what’s — what, if any, damage has been done to protect American national security interests?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah, and I — I am answering your question.  When it comes to any underlying materials or any conduct — contents of the ongoing investigation, we are just — the independent Department of Justice investigation — we’re just not going to comment on it.

Q    And, if I may, Utah just filed a lawsuit over the President’s decision to reinstate the boundaries of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase — the national monuments.  Does this administration have any reaction to this lawsuit?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No, I’m not going to comment on the lawsuit from here.

Okay.

Q    Yes, thank you.

Q    Does the Biden White House believe it’s ethical to raid the home of the top political opponent?

Q    I just wanted to ask about the airstrikes ordered by the President against Iranian-backed groups in Syria yesterday, and what impact, if any, that would have on Iranian nuclear negotiations.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah, so, the — the Syria — as you heard from CENTCOM today, these strikes were a direct response to attacks on ongoing threats against U.S. forces.  So, we don’t — we do not seek escalation, as you heard from — from CENTCOM, but we remain prepared to respond to any ongoing threat.  So, I just want to say that at the top.

We took this action because the President determined it was in our national security interests to do so.  He will continue to closely monitor the situation with his national security team.  So that is something that we’re going to continue to do.

As it relates to the JCPOA — to your question — you know, the President has said this — that his pledge to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon — he wants to prevent that.  That has been his pledge from — from the beginning.

A nuclear-armed Iran would serve as an even greater threat to U.S forces, friends, and allies in the region.  The President will use whatever means are necessary to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. 

The preferred course, of course — you’ve heard us say this from this podium many times; you’ve heard us say this — the President say this — is diplomacy.  But it remains to be seen whether a deal is actually achievable.  But that’s what we are — that’s what we’re going to work towards: a diplomacy effort. 

Whether or not there is a deal, the President’s commitment to protect U.S. personnel and confront Iran’s activities that jeopardize our people or our friends in the region is unwavering. 

And the nuclear deal has nothing to do with our readiness and ability to defend our people and our interests.  And that’s going to be the prim- — the President’s primary focus.

Q    And one quick one on Ukraine — the most recently announced weapons package.  I understand that those weapons have to be built; they’re not in a stockpile already.  What is the range therefore, and kind of estimated time they could actually be delivered to Ukraine? 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No, it’s a great question.  I think what you saw us — us announce — the $3 billion from folks — for folks who are not tracking, which — a new package, which is the largest one — one — at once tranche that we’ve announced from this administration.  We’ve — have announced approximately $13.6 billion — just to give a little bit of context there — of security assistance for Ukraine since the beginning of this administration, back in January of 2021 — an unprecedented amount that is roughly three times what Ukraine’s annual military budget is. 

But so, to your point, this is through the Ukrainian security assistance.  This announcement represents the beginning of a contracting process through which DOD will acquire additional capabilities to provide to Ukraine’s armed forces.  This is different than the presidential down — drawdown authorities that you’ve heard us announce. 

So, it means that some of this acquiring Ukraine will take some time, to your point.  I don’t have a specific timeline for this.  I would refer you to the Department of Defense. 

But this announcement is part of our efforts to ensure Ukraine’s military can continue to defend its people and also to defend its freedom and its de- — defend its right to be a sovereign country.

Go ahead.

Q    A federal judge today blocked the administration’s ability to enforce the guidance related to emergency services — abortion where it is — in states where it’s banned or restricted.  I think you’ve got three more states that are adding new restrictions via trigger laws at some point this week. 

When you look around at the environment right now, where is the administration in terms of potentially new actions or what the President is thinking as this seems to progress?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  As you know, the President has taken some bold action since Dobbs.  A decision was made back in June of 20- — June 24th, I believe, so just a couple months ago. 

And you know, we’ve been very clear, as you look at what’s — what is — what happened last night in Texas.  Republican legislators are working to roll back the freedoms of Americans that they’ve relied on for a half a century — a half a century.  And it’s more and more clear that this is against the will of a majority of Americans, and we cannot forget that.

Women across the country are making their voices heard.  They’re making their voices really loud and clear to reclaim the rights that were taken from them by the Supreme Court. 

And so, here’s the thing that we’re doing, what the President is doing, and what congressional Democrats are doing is listening to women, to the American — to a majority of Americans, and we’re committed to restoring protections of Roe. 

But again, what we’re seeing from the other side is — is extreme.  It is “ultra MAGA,” as you’ve heard the President say.  It is — it is, you know, it’s including banning abortion in cases of rape, incest, and the health of the mother.  That is what is happening here when you look at these pieces of legislation just across the country. 

And as I mentioned, last night, a Texas district court affirmed that medical providers can deny lifesaving and health-preserving care for women, even if they are suffering from hemorrhaging or life-threatening hypertension.  That is what we’re seeing. 

And tomorrow, five new abortion bans go into effect in Idaho, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas that will criminalize abortion, in some cases without exceptions for rape or incest. 

Texas’s law is extreme.  That is — that — it seeks to punish healthcare providers with life in prison.  That’s what they’re talking about: punishing healthcare providers with life in prison. 

So, Americans need to know that these are our fundamental rights that were taken away from us by this Dobbs decision, including the right to contraception and marriage equality are at risk.  Let’s not forget what we heard from Judge Thomas when that decision was put down — was announced.  That’s why people across the country need to make — make sure that their voices are being heard. 

And that’s what we’re going to continue to do.  That’s what the President is going to do, along with congressional Democrats.

Go ahead. 

Q    Thank you.  On student loans: One of my colleagues asked if these measures are likely to raise prices because it makes it easier for some students who are maybe more willing to take on debt if they know they’re only going to have to pay a minimum amount or if it’s going to be forgiven.  And Ambassador Rice said that’s something the Department of Education is going to be on the lookout for. 

So I’m wondering if that’s a tacit acknowledgement that, yes, these policies could cause tuition rates to rise in the near future even further than they already have?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, this is — this is something that abassador [sic] — Ambassador Rice talked about, as you just stated.  She was asked this question a couple of times, and she said, “We have to see.”  Right?  We have to see. 

This is something that the Department of Education is going to look into.  In particular with — with — when you talk about colleges potentially raising prices, that’s something that the Department of Education is looking at and is going to crack down on. 

Q    But it seems like it’s something you’re preparing for, right?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, I mean — look, this is — again, this is something that the Department of Education is aware of.  This is something that we’re monitoring.  But it doesn’t take away from what this means, from what we — what the President announced today. 

This is going to help people making less than $125,000.  That matters. 

This is going to help 90 percent of what — of what the President announced — of this package that the President announced is going to help Americans — middle-class Americans who are making — who are making less than $75,000 a year.  This is giving those Americans a little bit of breathing room.

Let’s forget what — let’s not forget what has happened the last couple of years, if you think about the pandemic, if you think about how people are still recovering from the pandemic.  We’re trying to make sure that people still have a little bit of breathing room, especially as the pause is going to be lifted — as the President announced, as you heard from — from the ambassador — at the end of this year. 

So we want to make sure, again, that we are focused on the middle class, that we are focused on the economy and helping folks from the bottom up and the middle out.  This has been part of the President’s economic policy. 

If you look just across the board: the American Rescue Plan; if you look at the bipartisan law — Bipartisan Infrastructure Law; if you look at what we’ve done these past several weeks — several weeks with Congress — with Democrats in Congress, the Inflation Reduction Act.  All of this is part of making sure that we don’t leave people behind, people who have been left behind for generations. 

Q    So is that —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So that’s our focus. 

Q    Is the thought process: Tackle what you can address now, and if that causes college to be more expensive in the future, that’s something you’ll address later, if and when (inaudible)?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, this is som- — again, this is something that the Department of Education is going to be zero — zero-focused on — laser-focused on, and make sure that, you know, we crack down on those particular issues that you — that particular issue that you just brought up. 

But again, this is — this is a big deal what’s happening.  This is a big deal for so many Americans who — who’s — who go into debt because they’re not able to — you know, because they have to pay these loans.  And so, this, again, will give them a little bit more of a breathing room, which is something that you hear from the President every time he talks about the economy and what his focus is on.

Go ahead.

Q    Karine, on that note though, I guess what prevents the cycle of debt from continuing?  Right?  Because there will be students, no doubt, this coming year who are going to take on more loans.  And I guess I’m — I’m still confused as to how the cycle of debt is really broken. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, when you think about — let — when you think about — and this was in our factsheets — which I think is really important to state, is how much — how much relief this will provide to 43 million borrowers, including canceling full remaining balance for roughly 20 million borrowers.  Like, that matters.  That matters to borrowers and their family —

Q    What are they doing for this next crop of people who are in high school right now, and going in and it’s sort of like there’s no solutions for them.  Correct? 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Like, well — well, look, I think what —

You’re talking about the future.  Is that what you’re talking about?

Q    I am talking about the future —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  (Laughs.)  You’re talking about —

Q    — yeah, but that’s the current.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay.

Q    That’s the current.  This is retroactive — right? — for people who —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay, well — well — well, let me — well, here’s the thing: there are things — the President’s plan also provides relief to future borrowers and current borrowers by cutting monthly payments for undergraduate loans in half.  Like, that is part of the plan. 

Q    Yeah, that — but that —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yes, we talk about 10,000 —

Q    — cuts the payment but not the principal, and that’s what we’re getting at, is it’s actually making it easier for people take on more debt.  And there’s nothing in this program that stops schools from —

I mean, just anecdotally, my school raised tuition from the time I was a freshman to the time I was a senior.  My scholarship didn’t go with it. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.

Q    So that meant I had to take out private loans to cover that.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, that’s — and, again, that is something that the Department of Education is closely looking at.  That is what the — that is what the Ambassador was saying, right?  This is something — when it comes to schools doing that, that is something that the Department of Education is going to crack down on. 

So, again, we’ll — we’ll refer you to them.  That is clearly something that we are monitoring and is important as well.  You make a very good point; it is not lost on us.

Again, Department of Education — I’m just going to repeat what the — what the Ambassador said — is looking into that.  They’re monitoring that.  They’re going to crack down on that and have a plan to do that.  And so that — that is in their wheelhouse to deal with that particular issue.

Q    Then why is the — one more question —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah, sure. 

Q    — which is: I do know that there have been concerns that that the plan could be struck down in court.  This is even something that the centrist Democratic think tank Third Way came out saying.  And my question is: For you all, what preparation is there into thinking people will apply for this program and they could be stuck in some legal limbo?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, look — and Ambassador Rice talked about this — that this is what we — the legal authority that we took is pretty much consistent with the HEROES Act — right? — which is what she talked about, which authorizes the Secretary of Education to take certain actions he believes they are necessary to ensure a borrower is not — not placed in a worse position financially due to a national emergency like the COVID-19 pandemic. 

So that is the act — that is the legal authority that was given to the Secretary of Education to do this.  We are confident in that legal authority. 

And any other further specific questions on that, I would refer you to Department of Education.

Q    In the back?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Matt.  I haven’t called on you.  And then I’ll come back to you. 

Q    Thank you, Karine.  I just wanted to return real quick on the dam- — potential damage assessment related to the documents and ask you — I mean, it sounds like you’re not commenting, period.  I mean, is that right?  Or are — I’m trying to figure out, like, if there’s a possibility that there is an assessment going on and you’re just not willing to say it or is there no assessment going on.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So I cannot comment on — on it at all.  I — all I can say is: At this time, when it comes to these underlying materials, when it comes to the contents of the ongoing investigation, this is something that — it is an independent investigation that the Department of Justice is doing.  And I would refer you to them.

Q    But it would seem logical that the administration, for national security reasons, would want to assess whether something was breached, separate from an investigation into whether that was illegal. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No, I — I — no, I mean, Matt, I get your question.  I — I hear it.  I get your question.  I hear — Aamer just asked the same question, and I think there might have been a follow-up after that.  It’s — we just are not going to comment on the contents of the — of this ongoing, independent investigation that the Department of Justice is doing.  We’re not going to comment on the underlying materials at this time.  We’re just not going to do that. 

Q    A follow-up to that?

Q    Just another quick question.  Tomorrow, Ukraine’s Independence Day.  John Kirby said earlier that President Biden would be calling President Zelenskyy.  Is there anything else that the administration is doing?  Obviously, this comes right after the $3 billion in aid that you outlined.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.

Q    But I don’t know if there’s anything else that the administration tomorrow —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well —

Q    — to mark that.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, the $3 billion of assistance that we announced, which is the largest one — one — at one time assistance that we’ve provided, I think shows our commitment, our long term — this is a long-term commitment to Ukraine to continue to fight for their freedom, and bravely, as they have been doing for the past six months.

As you heard from my colleague: Yes, the President is going to — to have a conversation with President Zelenskyy, which he’s had multiple conversations with him in the past several months.  There’s been an open line of communication with not just the President Zelenskyy, but also his team in the government. 

And we’ll likely have a readout, and we’ll share more of that conversation.  But the President wanted to make sure he touched base with President Zelenskyy directly.  And that’s what’s going to happen tomorrow.

Go ahead. 

Q    One in the back, Karine? 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah, I’ll come to the back. 

But go ahead.  And then I’ll come to you.

Q    Thank you, Karine.  My colleagues have made the point — and actually Democratic Congressman Chris Pappas issued a statement — to the effect that this plan regarding college debt doesn’t address the underlying cost of college.  So, kind of honing in on a question that my colleagues have asked: Is the President ready to do more when it comes to addressing the underlying and ever-increasing cost of college?  Is he willing to work with Congress?  Is this something he’s going to address more in the future?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, he’s talked about — he’s talked about that in the past, right?  He’s talked about what he’s — he wants to make sure that we lower cost — right? — of college for students. 

Look, since 1980, the total cost of both four-year public and four-year private college has nearly tripled.  Even after accounting for inflation, federal support has not kept up.

Pell Grants once covered nearly 80 percent of the cost of a four-year public college degree for students from working families, but now only covered a third.  The typical undergraduate student with loans now graduates with nearly $25,000 in debt.  And so this is something that is going to help deal with that specific issue.

Look, the President has done — has done — has taken multiple actions.  We’re looking at today’s actions, but if you think about the $32 billion that he was able to do to give debt relief to more than 1.6 million borrowers, that is something that he has done in his — this administration.  That is historic.  That was a historic effort.

This is part of it with the — if you think about the pause, how much that has saved Americans who have not been — who have not had to pay a dollar — you heard that from his speech today — of repayment since — since he’s got into office, which started before this President.  This President just continued the efforts.

So that matters.  That is also important.  So we just want to make sure that is clear as well.

You know, this is — this is going to help millions and millions of people who — you know, you think about the Pell Grant that was discussed a moment ago; you can get — if you — if you have a recipient of the Pell Grant and you are a bowor- — borrower, of course, you can — that goes up to $20,000.

And that matters, because people who are on the Pell Grant, they come from households that makes less than $60,000.  That matters.  Half of that are folks in a household that makes less than $30,000.

So all of these efforts are going to matter.  They’re going to have an effect.  And what you heard from my colleagues who were just here moments ago — they’re going to encourage people to take — to take that — to take this opportunity to help them with those efforts.

I’m going to move — I’m just going to move around.  I’m just going move around.  Go ahead.

Q    Thank you.  I have two questions.  In recent months, there have been increasing instances of vandalism of Gandhi statue.  Two of them have been in New York, and one of them have been treated as a hate crime.

Is the President aware about it?  Because both the President and Vice President have often quoted Mahatma Gandhi’s quotes during their speeches, and they have said they’re great fans of Mahatma Gandhi.  What is the President’s message to them?  Because these fringe elements are openly commenting on social media for vandalism of Gandhi’s statue.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, Mahatma Gandhi, as you know, is — the enduring message of truth and non-violence serves as an inspiration.  As you said, the President has spoken to this directly and specifically.

Any act of vandalism should be condemned in the strongest terms.  I’ll refer you to the local law enforcement for more on any investigation or actions that may be taken from that, from — from their point of view.  The United States is committed to ensuring the safety of security in Indian and — and other foreign counterparts.

So we are — something that we condemned — any acts of violence.  You’ve heard us say this many times before from this podium.  And again, you know, Mahatma Gandhi is an inspiration.  And that’s — and you’ve heard that directly from the President many times.

Q    One more question.  In the aftermath of Russian invasion of Ukraine, a lot of people are saying that the India-U.S. relationship is drifting apart.  Do you believe that?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So I think you asked me about the Indian independence, and we had a pretty strong response to how we see our relationship with India.  It’s a — it’s indispensable.  We see — we see the partners as indispensable partners.  And the U.S.-India Strategic Partnership is grounded in our shared commitment to the advancement of a free and open Indo-Pacific region — you’ve heard the President say this — the rule of law and the promotion of human freedom and dignity.

We are confident in our relationship.  In the years ahead, we’ll continue to stand together to defend the rules-based order; foster greater peace, prosperity, and security for our people; advance a free and open Indo-Pacific; and together address the challenges we face around the world together.

So we see this as a commitment, as a continued partnership.

Q    But do you have defenses of India on the issue of Ukraine?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, we’ve been very clear on where we stand with Ukraine, and we just announced a $3 billion additional security assistance to the country to make sure that the people are continuing to fight for their freedom.

We have been — it’s not just us.  You see that with our allies and partners.  You see a very unified NATO that — and they are unified because of the leadership of this President.  You’re seeing that NATO is going to expand by two more countries.

So this shows the strength in the West and how much we have come together in supporting Ukraine.  And so we’ve been very clear on where we stand.  It is important to make sure that when a country is fighting for their freedom, fighting for their democracy, for their sovereignty, that we support that.

Q    Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  About the student loans — how can the country afford such a massive handout?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah, well, you know, Ambassador Rice said that she’s happy to have that discussion; I’m happy to have this discussion as well.

Look, if you look at what this President has done, if you look at the end of this fis- — coming end of the fiscal year, $1.7 trillion that we have deduce- — brought down the deficit.  That matters.  That matters.

And if you look at the Inflation Reduction Act, it’s going to add another $300 billion going to bring down the deficit again.

Q    And might spend $300 to $900 billion extra.  So you can do that and not —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  But here’s the thing —

Q    — increase the deficit?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Here’s the thing: What we are trying to do here — we are doing this responsibly.  You heard directly from the President — this is something that is going to be important for middle-class Americans.  When you think about 90 percent of the folks who are — who are going to actually benefit from this are making $75,000 or less, and you think about what Republicans did just a couple of years ago, they — they signed off on a $2 trillion — $2 trillion tax cut for the wealthy and did not provide any way to pay for that.

Q    Who’s paying for this?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  And that — again, here’s what we have done.  Here’s what —

Q    But you’re talking a lot about how much it might cost, it might not cost.  Who is paying for this?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  What we are saying is the work that this administration has done, the work that the Democrats and Congress has done is actually there.  And you see that the $1.7 trillion deficit — in deficit deduction that you see is going to benefit us in being able to do something for the middle class —

Q    I understand.  But you can’t just —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  — to do something for the middle class. 

Q    But when you forgive —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  This is about doing something for people who make less than $125,000.  $1.7 trillion — that’s what we’ve been able to do.

Q    But when you forgive debt, you’re not just disappearing debt.  So who is paying for this?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  But — and then I’ll give you the second part: We lifted the pause, right?  We’re going to lift the pause at the end of this year, which is going to matter — right? — which is going to offset a lot of what — what we’re doing as well.

When you think about the — the $4 billion that are going — that’s going to go back into — as revenue back into this process of folks paying — paying — right? — their college tuition, that matters as well.

So we’re doing this in a smart way.  We’re doing this in a way that’s going to be effective.  We’re doing in this a way that keeps the President’s promise on giving people who need some breathing room — who need some breathing room.

Q    But somebody is paying for it.  Who?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I just — I just laid out — I just laid out for you —

Q    Who?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No, Peter, I just laid out for you how we’re seeing this process and why this matters.

Q    Is it wealthy Americans?  Is it corporations?  Who is paying?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Again, I just laid out —

Q    Somebody has got to pay.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I just — I just laid out: Because of the work that we have done in the economy, because of the American Rescue Plan, because of the Inflation Reduction Act, and because all of this work that this President has done is actually — has brought down our deficit by $1.7 trillion, unlike what Republicans did when they added to our deficit $2 trillion and did not care at all or thought about how this was going to be paid for.  They did not actually put in a process or thought — think about how we’re going to do this in a smart way.  This is not how this administration is doing it.

Again, we are happy to continue to have this conversation.  But I’m going to move around.  Go ahead, April.

Q    Thank you.  Karine —

Q    Karine — I’m sorry, she said “April.”

Karine, so what I need to find out — the school system for 2022-2023 is already beginning to see cracks.  School teachers — there are school teacher shortages in some states.  There are attacks already on some kids who are in the LGBTQ community.  There’s a concern about crime.

Is the President working with the Secretary of Education, like he did on the student loan debt forgiveness, to talk about trying to ensure the safety, the equity, and just the success of the 2023-20- — 2022-20- — -2023 school year?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah, this is something that the Secretary has talked about — Secretary Cardona, specifically.  He’s been on a few networks and was asked recently — I believe this past Sunday, some Sunday shows — and asked about the upcoming school year, was asked about teachers, was asked about the equity piece.

If you think about the American Rescue Plan and you think about what that did — the billions of dollars that that provided to make sure that school districts were able to rehire teachers, especially what was ha- — what we saw was happening with the pandemic where we — teachers left — left the field, where we saw schools shut down because of the pandemic.  And because of the work that this President did, because of the work that congressional Democrats did, we were able to get those schools open with — jurisdictions and school districts were able to hire teachers.  And that matters.  That is important. 

We’re continuing — you’ve heard this from Secretary Cardona: He’s continuing — he’s going to continue to work with local — local governments, local schools to make sure that the American Rescue Plan — the monies that are there to hire those teachers are being used.  And so that’s one piece, right?  That’s the teachers.

And also, you know, the President has put forth billions of dollars — more than $300 billion — from the American Rescue Plan to make sure that there is safety that pe- — that communities who were able to hire police officers, to make sure that there was some protection, that they felt safe — had safe communities.

Q    But what about the piece — the attack on students who are in the LGBTQ community —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah, that’s —

Q    — from telling them they can’t come to school or not feeding them school lunches?  Is that a rights issue as well?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:   So, we — first of all, we condemn that.  You know this President.  You know how this President feels about inequities, how he — he’s been very clear about making sure that we protect young people, especially in the LGBTQ community.  We have spoken out about that many times.  This is something that Secretary Cardona is working with, with — with local schools and he has talked about as well.

So this is, clearly, an issue that we’re monitoring.  We’ll continue to monor [sic] — monitor, and we will continue to condemn those types of practices or behavior.

I’m going to just go around to people I haven’t called on yet.  Go ahead, Dan.

Q    Hi, Karine.  I have two questions.  The state of California is scheduled, tomorrow, to say that you can’t buy new electric car — new gasoline cars in — starting in 2035.  What is the White House’s reaction to that?  Do you guys support that — the spirit —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Say that one more time?

Q    The state of California said, after 2035, they’re not going to let you buy new gasoline cars.  That news is breaking tomorrow.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay, so I have not seen that report, so I need to actually take a look, talk to our team so we can provide you a more — a clear — you know, a clear response.  So I don’t want to get ahead of — of what the team might say on that.

Q    What do you say to Jason Furman, who was the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers during the Obama White House?  He tweeted today.  He was — he and Larry Summers were, you know, early warning beacons on inflation last year. 

He tweeted, “Pouring roughly half a trillion dollars of gasoline on the inflationary fire that is already burning is reckless.  Doing it while going beyond one campaign promise…and breaking another…is even worse.” 

How do you respond to that criticism (inaudible) with —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  You’re talking about the student —

Q    On the student loan.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:   — the student loan?  Look —

Q    How do you respond to that criticism from your own party?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, you know, Bharat kind of talked about this.  You know, the way we see it is a number of independent experts, from Moody’s Analysts to the Economic Policy Institute, agree that restarting student loan payments around the same time we provide targeted relief will not have any meaningful effect on inflation.

That’s because collecting more payments by ending the moratorium will mean borrowers will pull back on spending in other areas.  It will have a deflationary effect.  That’s the way that experts have seen this as well.

This will more than outweigh any limited positive wealth effect of targeted debt cancellation.  That’s why the Economic Policy Institute has said that that claim — that canceling debt is inflationary — is “profoundly off base.”  And the Roosevelt Institute has even — has gone even further to say that “a deal that cancels student debt and restarted payments would reduce inflation.” 

Taken together, the actions the President announced today are not only economically responsible, they will provide real benefits to families.

So we look at the other independent experts.  This is — this is also something to take into account as we talk about inflationary causes.

Q    Karine?

Q    A question?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay.  I’m trying to think.

Go ahead.  Yeah.  Go ahead, Nadia.

Q    I’m going to stay on the student loan.  American students pay higher fees in comparison to Western democracies by far — thousands of dollars.  Most of Western European countries subsidize college fees.  So why can’t the administration negotiate with banks, who makes billions of dollars in profit, to make sure that student loans are interest free or subsidized?  I mean, most of us who are parents can barely send one or two kids to college in America.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, the President himself put three kids through college — undergrad and graduate school.  So he understands the burden of what — of what having student debt can mean for a family, for an individual, which is why he took this action. 

Look, we see this action that we took today is going to be beneficial.  It’s going to help families.  We went through the numbers — that 90 percent of families that it’s going to help out that’s making less than $75,000, you know, a year.  That matters.  That is a big percentage of folks that are going to get relief. 

And so, this is one approach that we’re taking.  We’ve taken — the President has taken other approach — historic approaches, when you look at, again, the $32 billion that he was able to cancel — that debt — for 1.6 million borrowers.  That matters.  We’ve not seen that. 

When you think about the historical Black colleges and universities, he has historically invested — provided $6 billion.  No other President has done that amount before. 

So, look, the President is going to look — is going to continue to look for ways to help out middle-class Americans, continue to look at ways to help out the people in communities that are left behind. 

But what we’re going to focus on right now is on this particular announcement that were made.  We are encouraging — we’re encouraging Americans out there, folks out there, borrowers to take advantage of this and to see if they’re eligible.  And that’s going to just be our focus for this time.

Q    Thanks, Karine. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay.  All right, thank you guys.  We’ll see you tomorrow.

4:46 P.M.

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