GOP Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers is the latest high-ranking House Republican who won't commit to keeping the Export-Import Bank running, although a major newspaper in her own Washington state district says thousands of jobs there depend on the bank.
McMorris Rodgers' hesitancy comes after Majority Leader-elect Kevin McCarthy said Sunday he supports letting the controversial bank close down when its charter expires on Sept. 30. As majority whip in 2012, McCarthy — like McMorris Rodgers — was among 147 House Republicans who voted with Democrats to reauthorize the bank.
But conservative groups and lawmakers are stepping up their efforts to force the bank's shutdown, calling it corporate welfare. And McCarthy's newfound opposition to the bank — and McMorris Rodgers' reluctance to back it again — comes on the heels of the primary defeat of Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who had been a driving force in getting the bank reauthorized in 2012. Both houses of Congress would have to pass legislation to keep Ex-Im operating and then have it signed by President Obama.
The Export-Import Bank provides loan guarantees to foreign buyers of U.S. products and provides credit insurance. The bank authorized roughly $27 billion in fiscal 2013 to back about $37 billion in export sales.
Against this backdrop, McMorris Rodgers was asked directly about the issue by The Spokesman-Review of Spokane, and the newspaper reported Tuesday that the House's No. 4 Republican wouldn't commit to supporting a reauthorization again.
Instead, she told the paper she supports "a way forward" for her state's exports, "while at the same time protecting taxpayer dollars."
"That's a weak response when thousands of Washington jobs, many in her district, depend on the bank. The entire Washington delegation backed the bank two years ago, and a stronger push is needed now," the editorial said.
Boeing, General Electric, and Caterpillar are some of the bank's biggest beneficiaries, the Spokane newspaper pointed out in its editorial. As for McCarthy, the paper complained, he "would leave the issue in the hands of Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, a longtime foe of the bank."
"Washington, the nation's most trade-dependent state, has much to fear from the Texan and his tea-party colleagues, who probably would have killed the bank in 2012 if Cantor hadn't worked around Hensarling to bring it to a vote.
The newspaper noted that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers are among the groups telling members of Congress that if the bank is scrapped, the United States would be put at a competitive disadvantage compared with other nations that already offer more robust trade support. On the other side of the fight are conservative groups like Club for Growth and Heritage Action.
There was no immediate comment from McMorris Rodgers' office on Tuesday, when asked about the newspaper's editorial.
On Fox News Sunday, McCarthy said he's against it "because the private sector can do it."
Meanwhile, the fight over whether to recharter the bank took another twist this week with a report by The Wall Street Journal that the Export-Import Bank has suspended or removed four officials in recent months amid investigations into allegations of gifts and kickbacks, as well as attempts to steer federal contracts to favored companies.
That report is sure to be a topic of discussion on Wednesday morning, when Hensarling's committee holds a hearing entitled, "Examining Reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank: Corporate Necessity or Corporate Welfare?"