If senators want to revive the Export-Import Bank as part of the upcoming highway bill debate, they're going to have to do it the hard way.
That was one key takeaway from GOP Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah at a news conference with other conservative lawmakers and members of outside groups that oppose the government-credit agency.
"I am willing to use any and all procedural tools to stop this corporate welfare, this corruption, from being propagated," Cruz said in response to a question about a possible filibuster of whatever transportation bill emerges, a point echoed by Lee.
"I think those of us who oppose it will continue to use any and all procedural tools at our disposal in order to oppose it," Lee said.
While the level of support for the bank in the Senate means the procedural efforts are unlikely to succeed, the conservative lawmakers taking a stand could cause a significant bottleneck for the transportation bill.
Cruz compared the talk from Republican leaders like Speaker John A. Boehner and Ohio and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky about getting Congress working again to "two wolves and a sheep sitting down to vote on what's for dinner."
"That's the outcome when this institution, when the Washington cartel works in the Washington manner, what happens is career politicians who are Republicans and Democrats sit down with the lobbyists," Cruz said. "The lobbyists say we'll write checks to both sides. We don't care who wins because both of you do the exact same thing."
"If John Boehner and Mitch McConnell say we will simply not allow the Export-Import Bank to be reauthorized, that will ensure this corporate welfare program goes away. About a month ago, there was a great battle in Congress over [Trade Promotion Authority]. The House leadership insisted, the Senate leadership insisted there was no corrupt deal. We didn't trade this for a bunch of K Street lobbyists writing checks to members of Congress," said Cruz. "That is great news. I salute them for saying there is no corrupt deal. Now is the opportunity to prove it."
Among the outside groups represented at the news conference outside the House's wing of the Capitol building was the Senate Conservatives Fund. Former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, the SCF president, mentioned at the event that his group was among those actively opposing McConnell's re-election in 2014, while the longtime senator from Kentucky had substantial backing from pro-Ex-Im Bank business groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Still, Lee said he believed McConnell had demonstrated his personal opposition to the bank.
"He's voted repeatedly against it in the past, and I think his votes speak for themselves on that point, and I'm optimistic about our chances," Lee said.
On this issue, however, letting the Senate work its will on an amendment to the must-pass transportation bill to bring back the Ex-Im Bank would allow it to get through the chamber, since backers have already demonstrated the support of more than 60 senators needed to ultimately overcome a filibuster.
McConnell took procedural moves Tuesday to get a legislative vehicle on the floor that he can insert the highway bill into by the start of next week, with conversations ongoing about which of a list of offsets could be used to pay for a longer-term extension than envisioned by the House.
See photos, follies, HOH Hits and Misses and more at Roll Call's new video site. Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.