If you wanted to understand the difference between the conservative brands represented by the Republican Study Committee and the House Freedom Caucus, respectively, the Wednesday news conference on the Export-Import Bank was a good place to start.
Conservative Republicans from the House and Senate, led by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, and outside conservative organizations used the news conference to call on GOP leadership to ensure that Ex-Im — often derided as little more than "corporate welfare" by many on the right — is not reauthorized. And while the big news out of the gathering was that Cruz said he was willing "to use any and all procedural tools" to stop Ex-Im — presumably meaning a filibuster — there was also a question about taking down a rule in the House.
Rep. Bill Flores, chairman of the Republican Study Committee, said he "generally" doesn't like to take down a rule, "unless it's something really significant." But the Texas Republican said he would have to confer with the 171-plus members of the RSC first. "I’m the chair. I’m not the czar," he said.
But Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, who heads the HFC, seemed a little less certain than Flores. Jordan said his decision would depend on what the rule would look like.
He called a June 11 trade rule vote, which saw 34 Republicans vote "no" in defiance of leadership, "the most convoluted rule I’ve seen in four-and-a-half years with Republicans in a majority."
"So it depends on what the rule looks like," Jordan said. "We don’t like to do that. We don’t plan to do that. But we have to look at the rule first."
While many conservative Republicans, including Jordan and Flores — as well as Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Majority Whip Steve Scalise — have indicated they would like to see the bank charter stay expired, supporters of the 81-year-old federal agency are hoping Speaker John A. Boehner can orchestrate a last-minute reprieve.
Boehner has said his only commitment on Ex-Im is that, if it comes up, it would have an amendment process. That could make it difficult for conservatives to rally against the rule — would they be opposed to a rule that gives them a vote on stripping out Ex-Im? — but the differing answers between Flores and Jordan offer insights into the differing views of the two conservative caucuses.
Flores has in the past called the Freedom Caucus a "complementary" group to the RSC, and given the hypothetical situation, he simply hoped it never comes to that. "Why don’t we make sure it never gets to the point that there’s a rule to vote on?" Flores asked. "That’s what we’re trying to work out."
Matt Fuller contributed to this report.
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