McMorris Rodgers Under Fire for Hedging on Ex-Im Bank

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 05: U.S. House Republican Conference Chairman Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) listens during a briefing March 5, 2014 at the headquarters of the Republican National Committee in Washington, DC. House Republicans briefed members of the media after a closed conference meeting.
National Journal
Billy House
June 24, 2014, 7:33 a.m.

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?”

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