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Republicans said the last-minute negotiations in Washington have demonstrated the need to let the market, and not politics, dictate the rates.

House Democrats fixed the rate at 3.4 percent when they controlled the chamber in 2007. Last year, the Republican majority agreed to extend the rates for 12 months.

Mr. Harkin said he would like to see the rates extended once more, so Congress can address the issue as part of broader debate when the Higher Education Act expires at the end of the year.

“That’s where this needs to be decided,” he said.