A powerful coalition of conservative advocacy groups is taking a united stand against the Export-Import Bank, raising the stakes in the debate over whether to reauthorize the agency that provides foreign loan guarantees aimed at boosting U.S. exports.
The Conservative Action Project, a coalition of right-wing groups led by former Attorney General Edwin Meese, has penned a memo urging Republicans in Congress to let the bank’s charter expire at the end of September. The memo, obtained by National Journal, is signed by the leaders of America’s largest and best-funded conservative organizations, including Heritage Action, the Club for Growth, Citizens United, and FreedomWorks.
“The Export-Import Bank distorts the free market by providing loans to politically favored companies, at the expense of their competitors who receive no such help. It uses taxpayer dollars to subsidize goods and services that benefit foreign regimes, including Russia and China,” the memo reads. “To close the door to cronyism, the Export-Import Bank should not be reauthorized.”
The memo amounts to a warning shot fired across the bow of the House Republican Conference, whose members are discussing the subject this week and have been divided over whether to extend the bank’s charter.
Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling, who’s weighing a campaign for a top leadership position this November, has made ending the Export-Import bank a cause de celebre for House conservatives. These members watched with great interest when Kevin McCarthy, just days after winning a promotion to majority leader, said on Fox News Sunday that he supported Hensarling’s push to eliminate the agency.
But McCarthy’s pledge, aimed at mollifying a restless rank-and-file that had just granted him a five-month audition as the House’s No. 2, angered some establishment Republicans with close ties to the business community. More than 40 of these members banded together late last month and wrote a letter to top GOP leadership officials urging them to reauthorize the bank.
Caught in the middle are many House Republicans who have friends on both sides of the debate—conservatives pushing the crony capitalism argument, and business interests emphasizing the economic significance of U.S. exports—and are thus hoping for a compromise that would reauthorize the bank but only with significant structural reforms.
Still, with the bank’s charter set to expire in less than three months, and Senate Democrats poised to vote as soon as this month on reauthorization, conservative outside groups are drawing a line in the sand. They are letting it be known to lawmakers—particularly House Republicans, who have the power to hold the line against reauthorization outright—that the only acceptable solution is abolishing the bank, period.
“The core problems with the bank—market distorting loans to politically favored companies—will persist unless Ex-Im authorization is allowed to expire entirely,” the CAP memo states. “Any plan to bypass regular order in the Senate or House to preserve Ex-Im constitutes an end-run around the democratic process and the interests of the American people.”
Conservatives take comfort in the fact that Hensarling’s committee has jurisdiction over the matter. But they also fear it might not matter. If the bank’s reauthorization is tied to a short-term government funding bill—as lawmakers have long expected, since both the bank’s charter and the current funding blueprint expire at the end of September—then the debate over Export-Import could lead to a potential government shutdown.
Some House Republicans are already predicting how this will unfold: the GOP leadership team proposes a short-term funding bill that contains language to eliminate the Export-Import Bank, but would allow the Senate to strip out that language and pass a “clean” funding bill.
If that scenario sounds familiar, it’s because that’s exactly what GOP leadership proposed last year as conservative were mounting a last-minute campaign to defund the Affordable Care Act. The pushback from members was so visceral that Speaker John Boehner and his team were forced to adopt a conservative proposal that made new government funding wholly contingent upon defunding Obamacare.
The result was a government shutdown.
If history repeats itself this September, it won’t be coincidental. The timing is the same. The divisions are the same. And the group that worked behind the scenes last summer advocating for the strategy of tying government funding to defunding Obamacare? It was the Conservative Action Project.
What We're Following See More »
President Obama became a surprise topic of contention toward the end of the Democratic debate, as Hillary Clinton reminded viewers that Sanders had challenged the progressive bona fides of President Obama in 2011 and suggested that someone might challenge him from the left. “The kind of criticism that we’ve heard from Senator Sanders about our president I expect from Republicans, I do not expect from someone running for the Democratic nomination to succeed President Obama,” she said. “Madame Secretary, that is a low blow,” replied Sanders, before getting in another dig during his closing statement: “One of us ran against Barack Obama. I was not that candidate.”
It’s all about the 1% and Wall Street versus everyone else for Bernie Sanders—even when he’s talking about race relations. Like Hillary Clinton, he needs to appeal to African-American and Hispanic voters in coming states, but he insists on doing so through his lens of class warfare. When he got a question from the moderators about the plight of black America, he noted that during the great recession, African Americans “lost half their wealth,” and “instead of tax breaks for billionaires,” a Sanders presidency would deliver jobs for kids. On the very next question, he downplayed the role of race in inequality, saying, “It’s a racial issue, but it’s also a general economic issue.”
It’s been said in just about every news story since New Hampshire: the primaries are headed to states where Hillary Clinton will do well among minority voters. Leaving nothing to chance, she underscored that point in her opening statement in the Milwaukee debate tonight, saying more needs to be done to help “African Americans who face discrimination in the job market” and immigrant families. She also made an explicit reference to “equal pay for women’s work.” Those boxes she’s checking are no coincidence: if she wins women, blacks and Hispanics, she wins the nomination.
Under pressure from a judge, the State Department will release about 550 of Hillary Clinton’s emails—“roughly 14 percent of the 3,700 remaining Clinton emails—on Saturday, in the middle of the Presidents Day holiday weekend.” All of the emails were supposed to have been released last month. Related: State subpoenaed the Clinton Foundation last year, which brings the total number of current Clinton investigations to four, says the Daily Caller.