House GOP Funding Bill Would Keep Government Open, Extend Ex-Im Bank

GOP leaders walk a fine line on government loan program.

WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 26: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) (R) walks with Rep. Harold Rogers (R-KY) (L) to a press conference with House Republicans on proposed greenhouse gas standards issued by the Environmental Protection Agency September 26, 2013 in Washington, DC. The EPA standards for new power plants could significantly impact states that produce and use coal as a source of energy.
National Journal
Sept. 9, 2014, 5:55 p.m.

House Re­pub­lic­ans on Tues­day un­veiled de­tails of a stop­gap spend­ing bill to keep gov­ern­ment op­er­at­ing through Dec. 11 that in­cludes money to fight the Ebola out­break, reau­thor­izes the con­tro­ver­sial Ex­port-Im­port Bank through the end of June 2015, and ex­tends the morator­i­um on tax­ing the In­ter­net.

It was no secret that the House planned to act on a con­tinu­ing res­ol­u­tion to keep gov­ern­ment fun­ded bey­ond the Oct. 1 start of the new fisc­al year. Law­makers re­turn­ing Monday to Wash­ing­ton for two weeks of work after the Au­gust re­cess have made it clear they wanted to avoid the pos­sib­il­ity of a shut­down of agen­cies and op­er­a­tions dur­ing the stretch run be­fore the Nov. 4 elec­tions.

But the fate of the Ex-Im Bank, which provides loans to for­eign com­pan­ies to help them buy Amer­ic­an products, had been less cer­tain.

The bank’s cur­rent au­thor­iz­a­tion is set to ex­pire on Oct. 1. And though gen­er­ally sup­por­ted by Demo­crats, con­ser­vat­ives led by Fin­an­cial Ser­vices Com­mit­tee Chair­man Jeb Hensarling of Texas have op­posed its re­new­al. Crit­ics say it is a form of “crony cap­it­al­ism,” that it in­ter­feres with the free mar­ket, and that it puts tax­pay­ers on the hook for loans.

Even new Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Kev­in Mc­Carthy had said in June, shortly after his lead­er­ship elec­tion, that he in­ten­ded to let the bank’s charter ex­pire. And in­tern­al party counts have had as much as half of the en­tire House Re­pub­lic­an con­fer­ence op­posed to re­new­al.

But the pro­spect of shut­ter­ing the bank was up­set­ting many busi­ness lead­ers. And Speak­er John Boehner and oth­ers were able to con­vince Hensarling and oth­ers to go along with the tem­por­ary ex­ten­sion through June 30, to al­low more time for de­cid­ing what to do on a more per­man­ent basis.

“Lead­er­ship has worked with Hensarling. I think this is a reas­on­able com­prom­ise,” said Ap­pro­pri­ations Chair­man Har­old Ro­gers.

The de­cision to move for­ward with an Ex-Im re­new­al—even a short-term one—promp­ted cri­ti­cism from the con­ser­vat­ive Her­it­age Ac­tion for Amer­ica, which has said it will score the vote on Ex-Im as a key vote for law­makers in its rat­ings.

“Con­ser­vat­ives are un­der­stand­ably wary when Wash­ing­ton prom­ises to fight an­oth­er day, es­pe­cially without an iron­clad prom­ise from lead­er­ship that this is the last reau­thor­iz­a­tion ever,” said Her­it­age Ac­tion spokes­man Dan Holler. “In­stead of ask­ing con­ser­vat­ives to cast their vote to reau­thor­ize this fund for cor­por­ate wel­fare, House Re­pub­lic­an lead­ers should stand up to Pres­id­ent Obama and K Street.”

Demo­crats, mean­while, have lob­bied Re­pub­lic­ans to ex­tend the Ex-Im Bank for at least five years, and it’s un­clear how many votes the minor­ity party will con­trib­ute when the meas­ure hits the House floor.

The House Rules Com­mit­tee on Tues­day night an­nounced it will be hold­ing a hear­ing at 2 p.m. Wed­nes­day to set floor pro­ced­ures for a vote later this week.

Ro­gers poin­ted out that the con­tinu­ing res­ol­u­tion in­cludes flex­ib­il­ity for agen­cies in some spend­ing de­cisions, and also in­cludes $88 mil­lion to help pay for the gov­ern­ment’s re­sponse to the Ebola out­break in west­ern Africa.

The bill’s lan­guage states that the money would be made avail­able to the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion.

And look­ing past the elec­tions—in­to the post-Nov. 4 lame-duck ses­sion—Ro­gers said dis­cus­sions already are un­der way on how to wrap up 2014 ap­pro­pri­ations with an om­ni­bus bill be­fore the end of the year. The House and the Sen­ate so far have not yet agreed on any of the 12 an­nu­al ap­pro­pri­ations bills for fisc­al 2015.

Some Re­pub­lic­ans have sug­ges­ted that the pro­spect of a GOP takeover of the Sen­ate in the Nov. 4 elec­tions—and con­trol of both cham­bers next ses­sion—is a reas­on to hold off on the ap­pro­pri­ations work un­til the new year. That way, an out­go­ing Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Harry Re­id would not con­tin­ue to hold lever­age over the talks.

But Ro­gers said House lead­ers now hope to pro­ceed with an om­ni­bus in Decem­ber, and get it passed “be­fore the new Con­gress meets in Janu­ary.”

“I want to get ‘15 over with,” he said, re­fer­ring to the fisc­al year for which spend­ing bills were sup­posed to be done by Oct. 1.

“I would rather the new Con­gress start off from scratch, rather than … with dif­fi­culties,” he said.

The CR con­tin­ues the level of gov­ern­ment spend­ing at the cur­rent fisc­al 2014 an­nu­al rate of $1.012 tril­lion. Along with the Ex-Im reau­thor­iz­a­tion and fund­ing to fight the Ebola crisis, Ro­gers said that the CR will also in­clude some oth­er changes to ex­ist­ing law:

  • A pro­vi­sion to ex­tend the In­ter­net Tax Free­dom Act through Dec. 11;
  • A pro­vi­sion to ex­tend ex­pir­ing De­part­ment of De­fense activ­it­ies, in­clud­ing counter-drug op­er­a­tions and re­wards for as­sist­ance in bat­tling ter­ror­ism;
  • A pro­vi­sion to con­tin­ue the surge in fund­ing for State De­part­ment pro­grams to counter re­gion­al ter­ror­ism against Ukraine and oth­er former So­viet Uni­on coun­tries;
  • Sev­er­al items re­gard­ing con­tin­ued over­sight of the De­part­ment of Vet­er­ans Af­fairs;
  • Ad­di­tion­al flex­ib­il­ity for Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion and Im­mig­ra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment to main­tain staff­ing levels and bor­der-se­cur­ity op­er­a­tions, de­ten­tion space, and im­mig­ra­tion en­force­ment activ­it­ies;
  • A pro­vi­sion to al­low fund­ing flex­ib­il­ity to main­tain weath­er-satel­lite pro­grams;
  • A con­tinu­ation of cur­rent fund­ing for the Tem­por­ary As­sist­ance for Needy Fam­il­ies pro­gram;
  • Ad­ded funds to off­set food-price in­creases in the Com­mod­ity Sup­ple­ment­al Food Pro­gram.

Ro­gers said the con­tinu­ing res­ol­u­tion was draf­ted without “con­tro­ver­sial riders” by his com­mit­tee and in a “re­spons­ible, re­strained way that should draw wide sup­port in the House and Sen­ate.”

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