Opposition to the Export-Import Bank is spreading among House Republicans, even as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) broke the impasse over a pending trade bill by promising to allow a vote on the reauthorization of the bank.
The prospects of Ex-Im’s renewal took a blow when Republican Study Committee chairman Bill Flores (R., Texas) warned that the bank is at risk of “becom[ing] another Enron at at the expense of American taxpayers.”
“The Republican Study Committee will not support the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank and believes that the bank should begin an orderly wind down when its charter expires on June 30th,” Flores said in a Thursday morning statement. “Ex-Im boasts a disturbing culture of corruption and misconduct that has led to numerous criminal indictments in the last six years. Their lending standards often lack transparency and consistency. Yet rather than address these mounting problems, bank officials have repeatedly ignored required reforms from Congress and recommendations from the Government Accountability Office and the bank’s own Inspector General.”
Flores’ statement comes as a welcome relief to conservatives who have long been opposed to the Ex-Im Bank. His election to the chairmanship of the RSC was perceived by some lawmakers and activists as a sign that the 170-member group, traditionally a conservative counterweight to establishment Republicans, would have a more convivial relationship with the party’s Congressional leadership than usual.
‘The Republican Study Committee will not support the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank and believes that the bank should begin an orderly wind down when its charter expires on June 30th.’
“I applaud Chairman Flores and the RSC for joining Leader McCarthy, Whip Scalise, key chairmen, nearly every Republican presidential candidate, and conservative groups in calling for Congress to let the Ex-Im Bank’s charter expire,” said former RSC chair Jim Jordan (R., Ohio), who formed the House Freedom Caucus after Flores replaced Scalise at the head of the RSC. “The time is now to end this patent example of corporate welfare.”
House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) refused to promise that a bill reauthorizing the bank would receive a vote this year, despite the urgings of Senator Maria Cantwell (D., Wash.).
“She contacted me and I told her I would not make that commitment,” Boehner told reporters Thursday morning, per the Washington Examiner.
Cantwell and other Democrats refused to end debate on the trade bill, which she supports, until McConnell promised to hold an Ex-Im vote. “We just want people to stand up and be counted in June before the bank expires,” she told the New York Times.
Her work to reauthorize Ex-Im points to one way in which killing the bank is uncomfortable for some prominent Republicans. Like Cantwell, House GOP Conference chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers hails from Washington. Boeing, which benefits from 40 percent of Ex-Im subsidies, employs about 80,000 of its 162,000 employees in that state.
— Joel Gehrke is a political reporter for National Review.