Iowa Republican senators support blocking Biden student loan repayment program

By: - September 7, 2023 3:31 pm

Student loan borrowers gather near The White House to tell President Biden to cancel student debt. (Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images for We, The 45 Million)

Iowa’s U.S. Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst are calling to overturn the Biden administration’s income-based plan to cut student loan debt payments, which is set to begin next month.

President Joe Biden’s administration announced the Saving on A Valuable Education (SAVE) plan in August, months after the U.S. Supreme Court blocked the White House’s earlier plan to provide relief through a one-time student loan forgiveness program.

The SAVE program would calculate payments based on a borrower’s income and family size and cut undergraduate loan payments from 10% to 5% of their discretionary income as well as waiving unpaid interest and forgiving remaining balances after making a set number of payments in some cases.

As of Tuesday, 39,900 Iowans are enrolled in the SAVE program, according to data released by the U.S. Department of Education — and more than 10,000 Iowans will have their outstanding debt automatically discharged through the administration’s repayment plans.

The department estimated the plan would save most participants roughly $1,000 per year, and would not require single borrowers who make less than $15 an hour to make any payments. More than 4 million student loan borrowers in total have enrolled in the federal program, with applications still open at

The plan is scheduled to kick off Oct. 1, right as repayment requirements are set to resume following the Department of Education’s three-year long pause. Republicans in Congress are hoping to stop the rule from taking effect.

Grassley and Ernst, alongside 15 other Republican senators, introduced a resolution to overturn the SAVE plan rule. Ernst called the plan a “student loan socialism scheme” that would force Iowans without loans to subsidize those with college debt.

“The Supreme Court rightly ruled that President Biden’s student loan socialism is illegal, but now he is trying to double down on his bailout that will fuel the flames of inflation,” Ernst said in a statement. “I will continue fighting to provide students and their families with tools upfront to see the true costs associated with their education and to help them make informed decisions about their future.”

The measure invoked the Congressional Rule Act, a law allowing lawmakers to overturn a federal agency rule if approved by a simple majority in both chambers. Biden would still have veto authority to reject the proposal if it were passed through the Democrat-led Senate and Republican-led House.

Grassley told reporters Wednesday that the SAVE plan “doesn’t have much to do with saving people money,” and that low-income Iowans are more concerned about rising costs of living.

Both Republicans were also outspoken opponents to Biden’s earlier debt forgiveness plan, voting to overturn it in June before the Supreme Court ruling. Grassley and Ernst also voted in favor of the debt ceiling deal between Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy that ended the pause on student loan repayments.

Instead of forgiveness programs, Republicans have advocated for measures to increase “transparency” of higher education costs. In March 2022, the Iowa senators introduced the STUDENT Act with bipartisan support, a measure that would require student loan applicants be provided with an estimate of the total amount of interest paid based on a standard 10-year repayment plan before accepting the loan.

As Republicans move to block the SAVE plan through Congress, Democrats say they are expecting to see the new Biden proposal in court.

“While there will be those that will challenge this in court, the administration has carefully crossed the legal t’s and dotted the legal i’s,” U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in an August statement.

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Robin Opsahl
Robin Opsahl

Robin Opsahl is an Iowa Capital Dispatch reporter covering the state Legislature and politics. They have experience covering government, elections and more at media organizations including Roll Call, the Sacramento Bee and the Wausau Daily Herald.