Speaker John A. Boehner — publicly, at least — has more questions than answers on the Export-Import Bank.
Asked Thursday during his weekly news conference whether he would consider just putting a Senate-passed bill on the floor for a vote if the House Financial Services Committee and the panel's chairman, Jeb Hensarling of Texas, did not advance an Ex-Im Bill of their own, Boehner sounded as if that's a question he himself is asking. "I'd support any plan that the chairman can get through his committee," Boehner said of Hensarling, "whether it would reform the bank [or] wind it down."
But, Boehner said, there are thousands of jobs on the line that would "disappear pretty quickly" if the Ex-Im Bank were to expire.
"So I told the chairman he needs to come up with a plan," Boehner said. "And, uh — because the risk is, if he does nothing, the Senate is likely to act. And then what?"
That was pretty much the question the reporter asked, the reporter pointed out. And Boehner, for his part, said that was the question he posed to Hensarling. "You might want to ask him," he said.
Hensarling has been almost emphatic that he does not want to reauthorize the 81-year-old Export-Import Bank, which serves as an export credit agency financing and insuring foreign purchases of U.S. goods. But nearly every Democrat in Congress supports reauthorization, as well as a number of Republicans.
In a reflection of the split on the issue within the GOP, House Republican leaders also seem to be on different pages. Boehner and GOP Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, whose Washington district benefits greatly from the bank, clearly believe something other than nothing needs to happen at Ex-Im. Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., seem to believe nothing is a perfectly acceptable option.
Even their rhetoric is divided. While Boehner said Thursday that jobs were on the line, McCarthy said Monday that, even if the bank's charter were to expire, none of the current loans would go away. "So how do any of those current jobs go away?" McCarthy asked.
"None of the loans go away that have currently already been out there so those jobs stay intact," McCarthy said. "Then you find a transition period where somebody else can fill the void. If there's any time you're able to do it, now is the time."
Emma Dumain contributed to this report. Related: Scalise: Export-Import Bank ‘On Track’ to Expire The 114th: CQ Roll Call's Guide to the New Congress Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.