There's only "one member of the Republican Party" holding up reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank, according to Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer: Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas.
"I don't think there's any doubt [he's] the one holding it up," the Maryland Democrat told reporters at his weekly press briefing Tuesday morning. "It's not an impression. It's a fact."
Hoyer went on to say that House GOP leaders, particularly outgoing Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia, want to reauthorize the institution designed to help U.S. companies finance goods for sale overseas. The two lawmakers actually worked closely together at the time of the last reauthorization to bring a bill to the floor, Hoyer said.
Opponents of the Ex-Im Bank dismiss the institution as an anachronistic corporate slush fund rife with cronyism, and they have an ally in Hensarling, who heads up the committee of jurisdiction.
Hoyer said Cantor communicated to him that he told "Mr. Hensarling [that] he has to make his cause to the caucus."
However, Hensarling has yet to schedule a hearing or a markup on the issue, though he said in a statement in late April that he would "in the coming months ... give Members an opportunity to publicly debate the merits of the Bank." Another unpromising sign for Ex-Im Bank advocates was a speech at the Heritage Foundation in May, where Hensarling called for every Republican to support the bank's expiration. If House Republican leaders are committed to reauthorizing the bank despite Hensarling's opposition or in the event he chooses to do nothing at the committee level, they could override him as they did with flood insurance legislation earlier this year, even though they would surely anger hard-line conservatives on and off Capitol Hill. Hoyer said he hoped leaders were prepared to go that route, and that Cantor, even as a member of the rank and file, will be a positive influence on moving the legislation forward.
"He's here for another six months," Hoyer said. "He's a very influential member of his caucus and he could be a very positive force in this caucus."
It has never, however, been clear that Cantor or others were willing to put their necks on the line regarding the Ex-Im Bank. Instead, Cantor and others in leadership have continued to defer to Hensarling to buy time that's rapidly running out. Cantor did not make any mention of the bank reauthorization in his memo outlining June's legislative agenda, and there's no indication that House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy of California, widely expected to succeed Cantor as majority leader, would champion the cause.
Industry lobbyists downtown are already worrying about what Cantor's departure from the leadership table will mean for the bank's reauthorization.
Hensarling's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.