The only commitment Speaker John A. Boehner is making on the Export-Import Bank is this: If the Senate is able to pass a bill on the export credit agency's future, there will be an "open amendment debate."
The Export-Import Bank charter is set to expire on June 30, and conservatives are expressing increased optimism that the 81-year-old federal bank's charter will lapse. More to the point, and perhaps more importantly, GOP leaders are increasingly sounding open to letting the bank die.
Asked Thursday, during his weekly on-camera news conference, if he had promised Sen. Maria Cantwell a vote on Ex-Im, Boehner was emphatic that no such deal was made.
"She has contacted me and I told her I would not make that commitment," Boehner said of Cantwell's call for a vote on bank.
There seems to be some confusion on the Cantwell quid pro quo. The Washington Democrat reportedly said she would vote for Trade Promotion Authority if she could get a vote on Ex-Im. "She agreed to vote 'yes' with the assurances she would get a vote in the House and in the Senate in June on Ex-Im Bank," Senate Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., told reporters Thursday.
Cantwell issued an email statement later that indicated the deal had been struck with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — with no mention of Boehner.
When Boehner was presented with the prospect there'd been some deal with Cantwell so she'd vote to end debate on TPA, the Ohio Republican said, "I don't believe that to be the case."
Boehner was clear that "at this point," the only promise he's made is to the bank's biggest opponent, Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling — and that commitment offers the Texas Republican no guarantee that if Hensarling manages to kill the credit agency in committee, it won't be resurrected on the floor. "The only commitment that’s been made," Boehner said, was "that there would be an open amendment process and the House will be allowed to work its will."
Boehner has said in the past he'd told Hensarling he "needs to come up with a plan " on Ex-Im. "Because the risk is, if he does nothing, the Senate is likely to act. And then what?” Boehner asked on April 30.
But the speaker seems to be backing off that demand, as Hensarling insists the House need only do nothing.
Still, Democrats are adamant that Republicans do something on the Export-Import Bank, which Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi claimed Thursday sustains 160,000 labor-export jobs and operates at no cost to the taxpayer.
"Hopefully, whatever is happening over in the Senate now, they'll come up with a compromise," Pelosi said.
Most Ex-Im supporters, which includes almost every congressional Democrat and a healthy number of Republicans, are hanging their hopes on the Senate attaching a reauthorization to some other bill and getting it through the House.
But conservatives don't seem to see any reason they have to vote on an Ex-Im bill. As South Carolina Republican Mick Mulvaney said Thursday, "Just because the Senate votes on a piece of crap doesn't mean we have to vote for it."
Ellyn Ferguson and Emma Dumain contributed to this report. Related: House Freedom Caucus Lines Up Opposition to Export-Import Bank Boehner Tells Hensarling to Develop Ex-Im Bank Plan (Video) 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.