The Corner

Economy & Business

Why Is a Republican Congressman Forcing a Vote on Reviving the Ex-Im Bank?

Republican representative Stephen Fincher of Tennessee has moved to force the House of Representatives to vote on bringing back the crony Ex-Im Bank through a discharge petition, a rarely used and highly controversial procedural motion. Here are my takeaways:

First, 42 Republicans and 170 Democrats are openly (and without any shame or fear of the consequences) standing up for corporate welfare. We have known for years that many Republicans were confused about the fundamental difference between being pro-market and pro-business. But from now on, there can be no doubt that Democrats are as enslaved to special corporate interests as some Republicans. In the Ex-Im fight, they are happily carrying water for giant corporations around the world at the expenses of workers. Fincher and others can hide behind talking points about American jobs and ignore the unseen victims of Ex-Im as much as they want, but it doesn’t change the reality. As a reminder, 64 percent of Ex-Im financing benefits ten large corporations and 40 percent benefits Boeing. On the foreign-buyer side, the top beneficiaries include a majority of state-owned companies such as Pemex, the Mexican oil and gas giant, and Air Emirates, the airline of the wealthy United Arab Emirates. 

Think about that. There is an federal agency whose entire raison d’être is to promote the specific welfare of a handful of corporations.​

Second, I would like to know: Where is the outrage about this corporate-welfare alliance between Republicans and Democrats?

From the Washington Post:

Led by Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-Tenn.), GOP backers of the bank joined with Democrats, led by House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) to execute a rare procedural motion that should lead to a vote by month’s end….

Hoyer kickstarted the process in July when he approached Fincher to work on a bipartisan plan to revive the expired agency. Aides said the Democratic whip staff called every House Democrat, ultimately delivering more than 170 votes to bring the bill to the House floor…

[Financial Services Committee chairman Republican Jeb] Hensarling said in a statement “Signing a discharge petition puts the minority in charge and effectively makes Nancy Pelosi the Speaker of the House.”

From The Hill:

The conversation in late July set the wheels in motion, with staffers for Hoyer and Fincher quietly collaborating on a discharge petition that — if signed by 218 members of the House — would force an Ex-Im vote on the House floor.

The push, which was joined by Rep. Frank Lucas (R-Okla.), culminated Friday in the filing of the first successful discharge petition since 2002, stunning conservatives who thought they had vanquished the bank once and for all.

Well, no one actually believed that Ex-Im was dead once and for all — even though I still believe that Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has the power to prove everyone wrong. But yes, the move was stunning. When Republicans make deals like this one with Democrats, they usually hide behind the fear of a government shutdown or a debt-ceiling crisis. This time, they have no such excuse, though that hasn’t stopped them.

The Democrats are rightfully gloating. From The Hill:

“What we did was show that Congress can still get things done for the American people and move our country forward. It was a significant — and historic — achievement for the House and for the American people,” Hoyer said.

Please note how Hoyer is defining a well functioning government as one that grows its size and scope and grants favors to special interests. 

The Post picks up the story:

“If the Freedom Caucus and their 40 members can run this place, we’ll show them that 40 centrists can run this place too,” Rep. Denny Heck (D-Wash.)

It’s no surprise that Democrats are happy. Nancy Pelosi had already said how excited she was about this exact prospect. But what does this tell us about what those Republican centrists stand for?

Does this mean we can expect more discharge-petition alliances between Democrats and the so-called “centrists”? 

Finally, for all the complaining about the Freedom Caucus that one reads daily in the national press, there is very little reflection about how we arrived at our present point. There are good reasons why Speaker Boehner will leave his job with terribly low ratings. The constant preemptive surrender to a pro–government growth agenda from the Republican leadership (which, admittedly, started long before speaker Boehner’s tenure) and the lack of desire under Boehner to push for any free-market agenda – even if just to show everyone what Republicans ostensibly stood for – have gotten us where we are today.

The Freedom Caucus’s demands and actions are not happening in the vacuum as many would have you believe. Instead, they are the direct results of the environment they find themselves in. I certainly I find it telling, if not depressing, that so many people are systematically upset about those demanding more principled stands while always giving a pass to those who cave in the name of a smooth process. What is the value of a “smooth process” if what results is a growing government, crony programs, and busted budget caps?

Are those who say no to the status quo always to blame, no matter what? Are compromisers always the ”reasonable ones,” no matter what they stand for or fail to defend? Do people really believe that there is no place for creative destruction in politics?

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