D.C. Dispatch: Iowa’s delegation introduces student loan legislation

By: - March 4, 2023 7:19 pm

Iowa's GOP delegation focused on student loans as the U.S. Supreme Court heard challenges to President Biden's student debt relief program. (Photo illustration via Canva)

Back in Washington after a week in their districts, members of Iowa’s congressional delegation focused this week on student loans.

The Iowa Republicans also worked on issues dealing with first responders, transgender athletes, cattle pricing, parents’ rights, China and more.

Sen. Chuck Grassley and Minnesota Democratic Sen. Tina Smith reintroduced a trio of bills in the Senate aimed at increasing transparency in college cost and financing. 

“The federal government should be offering commonsense resources to better prepare borrowers,” Grassley said in a press release. “These bills would provide additional counseling, resources and clarity to the student loan process so that America’s next generation of leaders can pursue higher education opportunities without breaking the bank.” 

The Net Price Calculator Improvement Act aims to “improve the effectiveness of and access to net price calculators,” a tool commonly used to estimate the cost of a college education, according to a news release.

The Understanding the True Cost of College Act would “create a universal financial aid offer form and standardize terms used to describe financial aid to allow students to more easily compare financial aid packages between schools.”

The Know Before You Owe Federal Student Loan Act would “make loan counseling an annual requirement before new loans are disbursed, rather than a one-time requirement for first-time borrowers” and let students “decide exactly how much they would like to borrow, rather than offering the maximum possible loan amount as the default option.”

All three bills have companion legislation introduced in the House, timed as the U.S. Supreme Court heard challenges to President Joe Biden’s student debt relief program. This comes after  Grassley and Sen. Joni Ernst introduced the STUDENT Act earlier this year, a bill that would “provide student loan applicants with an estimate of the total amount of interest they would pay prior to accepting a loan.”

“Student debt will continue to rise as long as students and their families are misled by colleges about the true costs associated with education,” Ernst said. “That’s why I partnered with Senator Grassley on this commonsense bill to ensure a streamlined, transparent process that equips families to make informed decisions before incurring debt.”

Rep. Randy Feenstra introduced companion legislation to the STUDENT Act in the House. The Know Before You Owe Federal Student Loan Act was introduced by the entire Iowa House delegation.

“Making the decision to take on debt to pay for higher education is a big decision for young Iowans, so we want them to be empowered with all the resources needed to make that decision,” Rep. Zach Nunn said. “It’s important for students to know exactly what they are getting into before making a commitment, and that’s why we are here to ensure Iowans know before they owe.”  

PSTD aid for first responders

Grassley and Delaware Democratic Sen. Chris Coons also celebrated the unanimous Senate passage of the Fighting Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Act of 2023. The bill would “require the Justice Department to report on evidence-based treatment programs for first responders across the country, similar to services available to military personnel who develop PTSD or acute stress disorders,” according to a press release.

“First responders are humble and heroic members of our community,” Grassley said in a statement. “Their selfless service often places them at physical risk and can also result in serious mental and emotional distress after the fact. I’m glad to see this legislation move forward so that we can provide first responders with the mental health resources they need and deserve.”

Grassley questions Attorney General Merrick Garland

Grassley questioned Attorney General Merrick Garland at a Judiciary Committee meeting this week, including topics such as Department of Justice investigation independence, Hunter Biden and whistleblower protections.

Ernst introduces legislation to ban transgender athletes in women’s sports

Ernst, along with several other Republicans, introduced a bill to ban participation by transgender athletes on women’s sports teams.

The Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act would prohibit institutions that receive federal funds to “permit a person whose sex is male to participate in an athletic program or activity that is designated for women or girls,” according to a press release.

“Title IX was created to offer the same playing field to female athletes as their male counterparts — not to subject women to second place and the sidelines,” Ernst said.

Presidential pay and campaign finance proposals

Ernst also reintroduced two bills that would restructure former presidents’ allowances and  salary and end public financing of presidential campaigns.

The Presidential Allowance Modernization Act would “reduce a future former president’s annual monetary allowance dollar-for-dollar by each dollar of income a former president earns in excess of $400,000. It also would provide future former presidents with a pension of $200,000 and a monetary allowance of $200,000 a year and affirm that nothing in the legislation relates to the funding of the security or protection of a future former president,” according to a press release

The Eliminating Leftover Expenses for Campaigns from Taxpayers Act would end public matching funds for presidential campaigns.

“Just last week, the Congressional Budget Office issued a dire warning about our nation’s financial future as the national debt exceeds $31 trillion,” Ernst said. “Washington can’t afford to pay for the perks of former presidents or fund the campaigns of politicians hoping to someday be president. I’m fighting to cut both.” 

Feenstra, Hinson introduce parents’ rights legislation

Feenstra and Rep. Ashley Hinson helped introduce the Parents Bill of Rights Act, a bill that “outlines five core principles that would apply to every school nationwide that receives federal funding.” The core principles are as follows: the right for parents to know what their children are being taught, to be heard, to see the school budget and spending, to protect their child’s privacy and keep their children safe.

“Parents have a fundamental right to be involved in their children’s education,” Feenstra said. “Decisions about what to teach our kids are too often left to bureaucrats and teachers unions without any input from the most important stakeholders – parents and their children.”

Cattle price transparency

Feenstra also introduced, along with California Democratic Rep. Mike Levin, introduced legislation that increases regulation on cattle pricing. Under the Cattle Price Discovery and Transparency Act, the U.S. Agriculture Department “would establish minimum levels of fed cattle purchases made through approved pricing mechanisms. Approved pricing mechanisms are fed cattle purchases made through negotiated cash, negotiated grid, at a stockyard and through trading systems that multiple buyers and sellers regularly can make and accept bids.” 

Republican Sens. Chuck Grassley and Deb Fischer of Nebraska and Democratic Sens. Jon Tester of Montana and Ron Wyden of Oregon introduced companion legislation in the Senate.

“The Big Four meat packers are illegally distorting the cattle market to increase their profits at the expense of Iowa family farmers. It’s shameful and it’s wrong,” Feenstra said. “The Cattle Price Discovery and Transparency Act will finally expose the Big Packers’ price-fixing schemes and hold them accountable for their antics.”

 Miller-Meeks bill targets lobbyists associated with the CCP

Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, along with a bipartisan group of House members, introduced legislation designed to disclose any participation in lobbying efforts by a foreign government or political party.

“Iowans have a right to know who is funding efforts to influence their government officials. For too long, the Chinese Communist Party has taken advantage of loopholes in federal law to push their agenda, and that is unacceptable,” Miller-Meeks said.  

House Committee on CCP holds first hearing

Hinson was part of the Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party’s first hearing this week, where she highlighted actions she said the Chinese Community Party has taken to threaten America’s national security.

Hinson pushes for increased civics and government education

Hinson and Democratic Michigan Rep. Dan Kildee reintroduced a bill aimed at improving access to civics and government education.

The Promoting Programming, Research, Education and Preservation in (PREP) Civics and Government Act would “expand the scope of the National Endowment for the Humanities’ (NEH) work to include the study of civics and government,” according to a press release.

“Times have changed, and I’m concerned by the downward trend in civic engagement among young people,” Hinson said. 

Nunn introduces bill targeting Chinese subsidies

Nunn introduced legislation aimed at curbing “dangerous and destabilizing” Chinese credit practices. The Neutralizing Unfair Chinese Subsidies Act of 2023 would require the Treasury secretary to ensure China’s compliance with the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)’s Arrangement on Officially Supported Export Credits. The multinational agreement “provides developing nations with certainty and transparency while preventing predatory lending practices,” according to a press release.

The bill would also require the Treasury Department to negotiate a “substantial reduction” in these subsidies around the world within the next 10 years, undertake subsidy negotiations at least twice a year and submit an annual report to Congress.

 “The best time to combat China was yesterday because the biggest threat we face from them is not militarily — it’s their tactful drain on our trade, jobs, and profit through predatory economic practices and theft of intellectual property,” Nunn said. “This bill would combat China’s efforts to expand the global influence of the Chinese Communist Party and level the playing field for American exports.”

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Luke Clausen
Luke Clausen

Luke Clausen was 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.