The Corner

Economy & Business

How Upset Is the Chamber that It’s Losing the Ex-Im Fight? Maybe Upset Enough to Primary Republicans

When the House left for its August recess last night, supporters of the Export-Import Bank lost all hope that the agency would be revived this month. As Kevin Cirilli over at the Hill explains today, they find this worrisome:

Ex-Im’s charter expired at the end of June, but supporters believed the Senate would add language renewing it to a must-pass highway spending bill. They also believed they had the votes to keep that language in tact in the House. . . .

Behind the scenes, bank supporters aren’t speaking with confidence.

“It’s hard to guess what Congress will do,” conceded one supporter of the bank. “We weren’t expecting the underlying transportation funding bill to become so contentious.”

It certainly was contentious. From Senator Cruz’s exposing the bank for the corporate welfare it is to Senate banking chairman Richard Shelby’s turning against the bank, Senator Rubio’s amendment to kill the bank permanently, Senator Lee’s intellectual guidance, the incredible fight led by Chairman Jeb Hensarling and a few others (Representative Mulvaney and Jordan, and plenty of hardcore conservatives) to persuade House leadership to back off of reauthorization, opposition to Ex-Im stood strong.

Supporters of the bank aren’t taking it lying down. In fact, according to Politico, the Chamber of Commerce is gearing up to take out those pesky non-compliant GOP incumbents who are resisting the Chamber’s call to renew Ex-Im and turning out to be uncooperative on other big-government priorities: 

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is gearing up to challenge some House Republicans in primary elections, frustrated after much of its agenda has been stymied by a small pocket of conservative GOP lawmakers.

The influential and well-heeled business group is already eyeing several races, but the plans are still in their infancy and the targets have not yet been decided upon, according to more than a half dozen Republican sources on K Street and Capitol Hill….

The theory is simple: The Chamber spent some $70 million in 2014, mostly to help Senate Republicans build their majority. But many of their legislative priorities — immigration reform, the renewal of the Export-Import Bank and a long-term highway bill — have been held up by a clutch of conservative lawmakers in the House.

This fight was never going to be easy, but for now, the Republican party is standing for free markets, not special privileges.

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