A group of House Republican lawmakers want to make something clear: Democrats aren't the only ones pushing for reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank.
On Wednesday morning, as the House Financial Services Committee convened a hearing on the bank's future, a small group of Republicans joined in a news conference urging their GOP colleagues to take a stronger stand against hardliners in the party who are pushing for the charter's June 30 expiration. "Why are we here?" said Rep. Billy Long, R-Mo. "We have enough problems in this country that we should be dealing with here in Washington, D.C., to come up with this contrived, flavor-of-the-week thing to be against. It's a dreamed-up problem that has spun out of control."
Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y., who in his earlier professional life ran companies he said succeeded because of the Export-Import Bank, said he was similarly "befuddled."
"I can't figure out for the life of me why my party, the Republican Party, that stands for jobs — and in every conference meeting it's 'jobs' and 'the economy' — and here I am, in the minority of my own conference, fighting to defend the Export-Import Bank which is the best example of creating jobs in America."
The news conference, organized by the National Association of Manufacturers, only drew participation from five GOP lawmakers: In addition to Long and Collins, Reps. Dave Reichert of Washington, Patrick Meehan of Pennsylvania and Tom Reed of New York were in attendance.
Long said there might have been more Republicans present if there wasn't so much fear among lawmakers that supporting the Ex-Im Bank — which helps secure funding for foreign companies looking to purchase domestic goods — would result in political blowback and primary challenges from critics who contend the bank amounts to little more than corporate welfare.
Last summer, 41 House Republicans signed a letter urging Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, and then-incoming Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., to reauthorize the bank. Nine of those members have since retired or resigned from Congress, making the number of actual GOP supporters a bit more fuzzy.
Democrats are overwhelmingly united in support for the bank and insist if reauthorization came to the floor for a vote it would pass without question. The Republicans at NAM's press conference agreed, acknowledging that the real hurdle now is convincing leadership to let reauthorization come up for consideration.
Reichert, taking a less strident tone than some of his peers on Wednesday, still accused Ex-Im detractors of "putting out misinformation" about the bank and suggested GOP leaders have "fallen behind" Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, one of the bank's top critics who has shown no indication he will bring up a reauthorization bill for a vote in his committee of jurisdiction.
Both McCarthy and House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., support letting Ex-Im Bank funding run out at the end of the month, putting Boehner in an awkward position. So far he has not committed to if, when or how he would allow the House to vote on the issue in the event Hensarling doesn't pass a bill out of his committee.
But Boehner recently suggested the most likely scenario is for the House to consider whatever Ex-Im Bank reauthorization the Senate can pass, and he said the House would do so under an open process that could allow conservatives to offer amendments to bring the whole thing down.
Meanwhile, forces both on and off Capitol Hill are turning up the pressure and employing some stinging rhetoric.
"It's clear the Ex-Im Bank has become sort of a litmus test for politicians," said NAM president and CEO Jay Timmons on Tuesday. "Well, we have a message for Congress: For job creators and manufacturers, it truly is. You're either with us or you're against us."
Heritage Action for America spokesman Dan Holler didn't take kindly to that implication.
“Timmons should take a step back," he said in a statement to CQ Roll Call. "The National Association of Manufacturers is accusing lawmakers with an average NAM score of 99 of being ‘against’ job creation. By contrast, he is standing ‘with’ lawmakers that score an average of 35 percent. Does he really want to be aligned with lawmakers who favor increasing taxes, expanding regulation and strangling domestic energy production?”
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