The Corner

Economy & Business

How Senator McConnell Is Working to Raise the Ex-Im Bank from the Dead

The Wall Street Journal has a piece today urging Republicans not to resurrect the unnecessary cronyist subsidy for Big Business that is the Ex-Im Bank.

Opponents have the better arguments on policy and politics. …

Not that any of this will matter in Congress. The Chamber of Commerce and Business Roundtable are pushing for a vote to resurrect the bank, and House Speaker John Boehner is on their side. Most of Mr. Boehner’s fellow Republicans are opposed, so he’s banking on a Senate assist.

As part of the trade bill jostling, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell promised Democrats a vote on renewing Ex-Im. If that passes the Senate, as expected, the plan is to attach it to the highway bill in the next few days and send it to the House. If Mr. Boehner brings it to the floor, Ex-Im will rise from the dead with the votes of nearly all Democrats and a rump group of Republicans.

This is a vote on which we hope Mr. Boehner gets rolled. If the GOP is going to have any credibility reforming welfare for individuals, it will have to show it is willing to cut welfare for business. Republicans have already done yeoman work for business by passing the trade bill, and they may do so again by repealing the medical device tax, increasing highway spending and maybe even cutting corporate taxes. If the business lobbies want to make Ex-Im their litmus test of support, let’s see how they like cohabiting with Sen. Warren.

Ronald Reagan used to say that the closest thing to eternal life is a government program. The Ex-Im Bank has already died. All Republicans have to do is let it stay dead.

Make no mistake, if Ex-Im comes back to life, it will mostly be the result of Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell’s actions. At the Washington Examiner, Tim Carney had a very informative piece about what McConnell is doing. I recommend reading the whole thing but here is a tidbit:

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is clearing the way to restart the Export-Import Bank, an expired corporate-welfare agency he has voted against, as part of the highway bill in the Senate this week.

Conservatives say McConnell’s actions show he never really opposed the agency — that deep down, McConnell takes the K Street position rather than the free-market stance. McConnell’s office contends that pragmatic politics are more complicated than that, and that keeping Ex-Im dead is beyond the majority leader’s power….

It’s impossible to read McConnell’s mind. But it’s clear he desires, deeply, to be seen as a majority leader who knows how to govern, not merely fight. Perhaps this perception will help him keep his majority, or help his party win the White House.

But it’s hard to make sense of the argument that voters should vote Republican so that McConnell can cut deals about subsidies with Sen. Maria Cantwell in order to pass Sen. Barbara Boxer’s tax-and-spend highway bill.

Here are questions worth asking the majority leader:

‐How many times did Senator Reid against his conference during his tenure as majority leader to clear the way for something they opposed? I suspect the answer is never. 

‐What does it mean that the Republican leadership keeps passing bills against the majority of the Republican conference by teaming up with Democrats? I will let you answer this one. 

Democrats are grateful — in fact, Senator Reid just thanked McConnell on Twitter:

As Cruz rightly says in the speech: “We have a government of the lobbyists, for the lobbyists and by the lobbyists.” 

Is this really what we get with the biggest Republican majority in Congress since 1928? 

As I have explained on Tuesday, House majority leader Kevin McCarthy has promised to oppose an Ex-Im loaded highway bill coming from the Senate. So unless Speaker Boehner forces him to break his promise, the fight is not over yet.