D.C. Dispatch: Iowa senators take aim at student loans

By: - February 18, 2023 3:44 pm

Gov. Kim Reynolds joined 22 GOP governors calling on President Joe Biden to cancel his plan for student loan debt forgiveness. (Photo by Catherine Lane/Getty Images)

College student loans were a target for Iowa’s U.S. senators this week, with Sen. Chuck Grassley working to abolish President Biden’s forgiveness program and joining with Sen. Joni Ernst to highlight interest costs.

Meanwhile, Iowa’s U.S. House delegation worked on issues related to ethanol, tax cuts and stock trading.

Grassley seeks loan (un)forgiveness

 Grassley joined Republican Sens. John Thune of South Dakota and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana in introducing legislation to “prohibit the president from canceling student debt, stop the student loan payment pause and prevent a unilateral moratorium in the future,” according to a press release.

The Biden administration put a moratorium on federal student loan repayment during the pandemic in November the pause was extended until June.

Last August, Biden announced he would cancel up to $20,000 in federal student loan debt for Pell Grant borrowers and up to $10,000 for all other borrowers with an income of less than $125,000 for an individual and $250,000 for a household. The program has been on hold while challenges work through the courts.

Grassley has been among Iowa Republicans who have criticized the program.

“There is simply no basis for using emergency-era measures as an excuse to wipe away or delay repayment on billions of dollars in student loans,” Grassley said. “Doing so is an unfair burden on those who chose not to attend college or worked hard to pay their own loans back. What’s more, it’s bad fiscal policy. Our bill would block the Biden Administration from transferring these loans from the borrower to the taxpayer.”

Student loan transparency

Sen. Joni Ernst helped introduce, and Grassley co-sponsored, a bill to inform student loan applicants of interest costs.

The Student Transparency for Understanding Decisions in Education Net Terms (STUDENT) Act wouldprovide student loan applicants with an estimate of the total amount of interest they would pay, based on a standard 10-year repayment plan, during or prior to accepting a loan,” according to a press release.

“The one time students should be given a cheat sheet is to reveal the true cost of college tuition,” Ernst said.My bipartisan bill will pull back the curtain and give our students the tools they need to make the best decisions for their financial future.”

School violence

In the wake of a mass shooting at Michigan State University Monday that killed three students and critically injured five others, Grassley and a group of bicameral, bipartisan legislators also reintroduced legislation focused on school violence prevention.

The EAGLES Act would “create a national program on targeted school violence prevention,” according to a press release. It would expand the National Threat Assessment Center’s research and training on school violence in coordination with departments of Justice and Education. 

“Accurate behavioral threat assessments and early interventions are essential to maintaining a safe environment in our schools and communities and preventing another tragedy from taking place,” Grassley said. “The U.S. Secret Service is uniquely equipped to help evaluate these threats, and our bill would enable them to share their tools and expertise with school safety partners across the country.”

Feenstra introduces trio of biofuel bills

Rep. Randy Feenstra reintroduced three bills this week aimed at supporting biofuels. 

The Comparison of Sustainable Transportation (COST) Act would make sure that ethanol-using vehicles are incorporated into the government’s data when comparing the costs of the energy transition as it relates to replacing gas-powered cars.

The Biojet Fuel Research Act  and Biojet Fuel Research Act direct different federal agencies to invest in the research and development of biojet fuel and a commercially viable biofuel cell system, respectively.

“In Iowa, every other row of corn and soybeans produces low-cost, low-carbon ethanol and biodiesel. As a result, the vitality of our rural economy relies on a strong biofuels industry and a thriving agricultural sector. These three bills will support both,” Feenstra said in a news release.

Feenstra, Hinson move to make Trump tax cuts permanent

Feenstra also helped introduce, and Rep. Ashley Hinson co-sponsored, a bill that would make former President Donald Trump’s tax cuts permanent. Twenty-three provisions of the 2017 law would expire after 2025, according to a press release.

“As a longtime advocate for commonsense tax reform, we cannot allow these tax cuts to expire due to congressional inaction,” Feenstra said. 

The legislation comes as Republicans are attempting to negotiate budget controls to reduce the national debt in exchange for raising the debt limit.

Nunn introduces bill to ban Congress from stock trading

Rep. Zach Nunn, along with Democratic Arizona Rep. Greg Stanton, announced a bill that would ban stock trading for members of Congress and their spouses. Under the Prohibit Insider Trading Act, members of Congress and their spouses would only be able to use “diversified mutual funds, diversified ETFs, Treasury bills and any investment in the Thrift Savings Plan,” according to a press release.

Nunn’s opponent in the 2022 election, Democratic Rep. Cindy Axne, was accused in 2021 of failing to properly disclose stock trades.

“The top priority of civil servants should be serving the American people, not making personal profit,” Nunn said in a news release. “I believe Iowans should have open, transparent, and honest representation without conflicts of interest getting in the way. This isn’t a partisan issue — this is a way to stop corruption in politics that has unfortunately become all too common.”

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Luke Clausen
Luke Clausen

Luke Clausen is a reporting intern with Iowa Capital Dispatch. He is a student at Drake University studying Multimedia Journalism, Magazine and Brand Media, and International Relations. Additionally, he helps to manage the Ambassador-in-Residence initiative at Drake with Ambassador Terry Branstad and Drake's Global Engagement team.