The Corner

Why a Nine-Month Extension of Ex-Im Is a Thoroughly Terrible Idea

No. Just no. No way. That should be the response of every real conservative to the proposed Appropriations Continuing Resolution, put forth today by committee chairman Hal Rogers of Kentucky, unless and until he removes a provision extending authorization for the Ex-Im Bank through next June. Veronique de Rugy wrote about this earlier this morning, well explaining (with her internal links) why the bank should not be re-authorized at all. She is right. I write, as a former press secretary for the Appropriations Committee, to say that it especially should not be re-authorized via an Approps bill. 

One of the worst practices on Capitol Hill is that of pushing items through Appropriations that can’t make it on their own via the proper authorizing committees. In 1995 and 1996, we at Approps had a virtual ban on new “policy riders” (existing staples such as the anti-abortion Hyde Amendment were excepted from the near-ban) on Approps bills, for good reasons: First, they bog down the bills and the process with policy matters rather than pure spending decisions. Second, they serve as a back door to push things through that otherwise don’t enjoy majority support, but which won’t be blocked in an Approps bill because congressmen so desperately want the spending in the bills (on other matters) that they will swallow the unwanted policy. Third, the authorizing committees exist for a reason: They are supposed to have the expertise on particular policy matters that appropriators don’t have; policy authorization, at the detail level, should be done by those more expert in it. Fourth, just like earmarked pork, these policy authorizations (or reauthorizations) provide fodder for sleazy vote trading. 

In the case of the Ex-Im Bank, it might, just might, make sense for Approps to reauthorize it for the length of the CR, which is supposed to run until December 11 of this year. This would mean that, one way or another, the fate of the bank will be decided before year’s end, and the concomitant funding for it will be continued only as long as funding for all other main daily functions of government, thus giving the authorizing committee and full Congress the chance to finally do its work in the meantime.

But this — this proposed bill is an abomination. The Ex-Im Bank, and that alone, would be extended (both its very existence authorized and its operations funded) an extra six and a half months beyond the rest of government, while everything else subject to appropriations would need to be decided by December 11. Why the special treatment for this bank? Again, why? Is it yet another sign that even our Republican representatives are so slavish to big corporate interests that they will use any back-door measure available to do the bidding of their corporate masters? Is it a bid for more campaign cash?

This is sickening. This is, frankly, a sop to the Boeing bullies, desperately trying to keep their gravy train flowing. 

If Congress wants to re-authorize the Ex-Im Bank, let it do so out in the open, on its own, where they are accountable, yes or no, for their votes. Don’t let congressmen hide, like so many cowards, behind a continuing resolution necessary (supposedly) to keep the rest of government operating until Harry Reid finally allows the Senate to do its job.

In sum, this sneak inclusion of Ex-Im reauthorization in an otherwise (almost entirely) “clean” CR is an example of the worst sort of lawmaking, precisely the kind of thing that leads the American public to rank Congress in popularity somewhere below mosquitoes and sewer rats. Every conservative group in the country, indeed every reasonable person in the country, should make clear to Congress that this provision must be stripped from the bill.

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