Cathy McMorris Rodgers Expects Export-Import Bank to Be Reauthorized

GOP Conference chair breaks with the majority-leader-in-waiting on a major issue for Washington state.

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
Sarah Mimms
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Sarah Mimms
July 28, 2014, 6:22 p.m.

Cor­rec­tion: The print ver­sion of this story car­ried an in­cor­rect head­line. Mc­Mor­ris Rodgers ex­pects the Ex-Im Bank to be re­formed and reau­thor­ized.

When Con­gress re­turns from its Au­gust re­cess in early Septem­ber, mem­bers will have just a few le­gis­lat­ive days to reau­thor­ize the Ex­port-Im­port Bank, the en­tity re­spons­ible for provid­ing loans to Amer­ic­an busi­nesses to help them sell their products around the globe. Con­ser­vat­ives in the House, ac­cus­ing the agency of try­ing to pick “win­ners and losers,” fa­vor al­low­ing the bank’s au­thor­iz­a­tion to lapse, while mem­bers from states de­pend­ent on trade are push­ing hard to keep the bank alive.

At the cen­ter of this fight is Rep. Cathy Mc­Mor­ris Rodgers, a mem­ber of House lead­er­ship as GOP Con­fer­ence chair and a rep­res­ent­at­ive of Wash­ing­ton state, the most trade-de­pend­ent state in the coun­try.

In past years, Mc­Mor­ris Rodgers has voted to reau­thor­ize the bank, which gives loans to com­pan­ies in­clud­ing Wash­ing­ton state gi­ant Boe­ing. But with the bank’s au­thor­iz­a­tion set to ex­pire on Oct. 1, Mc­Mor­ris Rodgers is the only mem­ber of the Wash­ing­ton del­eg­a­tion who has not yet said wheth­er she will vote to keep it run­ning this year.

In the mean­time, she’s get­ting hammered at home in ed­it­or­i­als across the state, ran­ging far out­side of her East­ern Wash­ing­ton dis­trict, even as a fel­low mem­ber of Re­pub­lic­an lead­er­ship has come out in fa­vor of elim­in­at­ing the bank al­to­geth­er.

The Ex-Im reau­thor­iz­a­tion was a ma­jor point of con­ten­tion two weeks ago dur­ing a D.C. meet­ing between the Wash­ing­ton state con­gres­sion­al del­eg­a­tion and the state’s vis­it­ing gov­ernor, Demo­crat Jay Inslee. Dur­ing the ren­dez­vous in Sen. Patty Mur­ray’s of­fice, Sen. Maria Can­t­well pressed Mc­Mor­ris Rodgers on the is­sue, ac­cord­ing to a Demo­crat­ic aide with the del­eg­a­tion. 

Mc­Mor­ris Rodgers told her col­leagues that she be­lieved the House would pass a short-term reau­thor­iz­a­tion, but stayed mum on wheth­er she would sup­port it, ac­cord­ing to the aide. That didn’t quite ap­pease Demo­crats who feel that a short-term deal won’t al­low busi­nesses to plan for the fu­ture. “I mean, that’s bet­ter than noth­ing,” the aide said. 

Just a week earli­er, Mur­ray, Can­t­well, and Demo­crat­ic Rep. Denny Heck sent a let­ter to Speak­er John Boehner call­ing for him to bring a reau­thor­iz­a­tion to the floor, of­fer­ing an im­pli­cit nudge to Mc­Mor­ris Rodgers. “When last reau­thor­ized, Ex-Im was un­an­im­ously sup­por­ted by the Wash­ing­ton state del­eg­a­tion, both Re­pub­lic­ans and Demo­crats,” they wrote.

Can­t­well, Mur­ray, and Inslee even took a trip to Mc­Mor­ris Rodgers’s dis­trict last month to rally sup­port for the bank.

In an in­ter­view in her con­gres­sion­al of­fice earli­er this month, Mc­Mor­ris Rodgers ac­know­ledged the con­tro­versy sur­round­ing the bank’s reau­thor­iz­a­tion and Wash­ing­ton state’s de­pend­ence on it. One in three jobs in the state is de­pend­ent on trade, she said, many of them in her East­ern Wash­ing­ton dis­trict.

She is also well-aware of the wave of ed­it­or­i­als in pa­pers across the state call­ing on her to stand be­hind the bank. The Spokane Spokes­man-Re­view, Mc­Mor­ris Rodgers’s loc­al pa­per, has called her out on the is­sue. The Seattle Times, whose dis­tri­bu­tion in­cludes much of Boe­ing’s op­er­a­tions but is a five-hour drive from Mc­Mor­ris Rodgers’ dis­trict, has put out two ed­it­or­i­als point­ing its fin­ger at the East­ern Wash­ing­ton Re­pub­lic­an. So has The Olympi­an, which is even farther away.

That puts Mc­Mor­ris Rodgers in a tough po­s­i­tion. As a mem­ber of House lead­er­ship, she can’t ig­nore the grow­ing voices on the far right that would like to see ma­jor re­forms to the bank, if they de­cide to reau­thor­ize it at all. And in­com­ing Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Kev­in Mc­Carthy has said he’d be just fine let­ting the bank’s au­thor­iz­a­tion lapse and is leav­ing it up to Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas, one of the bank’s strongest op­pon­ents.

Mc­Mor­ris Rodgers said she finds ar­gu­ments for re­form very com­pel­ling and hopes to get to a com­prom­ise to im­ple­ment them, while keep­ing the bank open. “I think we’re go­ing to get to a place where something moves for­ward, some kind of reau­thor­iz­a­tion with some sig­ni­fic­ant re­forms,” she said in her of­fice.

Pressed on wheth­er she would fa­vor shut­ter­ing the bank al­to­geth­er if con­ser­vat­ives can’t get the re­forms they de­sire, Mc­Mor­ris Rodgers said she was con­tinu­ing to work with mem­bers of her party to make sure that doesn’t hap­pen. “I be­lieve that we will get to a place where we will have some im­port­ant re­forms and there will be a reau­thor­iz­a­tion of the Ex­port-Im­port Bank,” she said.

When con­tac­ted for this story, staffers for the state del­eg­a­tion said they had not heard Mc­Mor­ris Rodgers say be­fore that the bank would not close, but they were hope­ful that she would use her po­s­i­tion in lead­er­ship to pro­tect it.

“I think the Ex-Im Bank is a real test for Cathy,” said Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash.

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