Leaders of top conservative organizations joined forces to deliver a clear message to Republican lawmakers: Allowing the charter of the Export-Import Bank to expire is the only principled option.
The Conservative Action Project, a coalition of leaders of groups ranging from Heritage Action for America and Americans for Prosperity to Tea Party Patriots and the National Taxpayers Union, yesterday issued a “Memo for the Movement” cautioning members of Congress against reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank. The 80-year-old agency’s current charter expires Sept. 30.
Signed by more than 40 of the conservative leaders, the memo says:
As long as Ex-Im continues to be reauthorized, taxpayers remain exposed to tens of billions of dollars of risk on loans and guarantees. The bank’s Office of Inspector General notes that the bank lacks sufficient policies to prevent waste, fraud, and abuse, while the bank itself doesn’t accurately track the status of the subsidies or the fitness of the recipients.
The bank provides taxpayer-backed loans and loan guarantees to foreign companies and countries that purchase U.S. exports.
The Conservative Action Project’s memo highlights the agency’s systemic failures, which include the recent suspension of four Ex-Im officials under suspicion of accepting gifts and kickbacks, and the bank’s previous dealings with such notorious companies as Enron and Solyndra. It says:
The core problems with the bank — market-distorting loans to politically favored companies — will persist unless Ex-Im authorization is allowed to expire entirely. 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.
In an interview with The Daily Signal, Wes Goodman, managing director of the Conservative Action Project, said the organization hopes the “Memo for the Movement” sends a message to Republican lawmakers that key grassroots and conservative groups — and their constituents — are watching closely. Goodman said:
This is a fight worth paying attention to. This is a fight worth fighting. The principles that many in the movement came to Washington to fight for are embodied in this fight. That’s why we wanted to elevate it. … This is important. It may not be a front-burner issue, but this is one of those issues that determines what kind of a party and what kind of a movement we want to have.
Also yesterday, 29 governors — including nine Republicans — sent a letter to House and Senate leaders on both sides of the aisle to press for re-authorization of the bank.
But although Texas Gov. Rick Perry earlier urged Congress to extend the life of the bank, other governors who are possible Republican contenders for president — including New Jersey’s Chris Christie, Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal, Indiana’s Mike Pence and Ohio’s John Kasich — have avoided taking a stand, The Washington Post reported.
Attention on Capitol Hill has focused on Ex-Im for several weeks and likely will continue to do so as Senate Democrats work to draft a bill extending the bank’s charter for five more years.
The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., and co-sponsored by Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., is expected to be introduced before lawmakers depart for the August recess. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., told reporters earlier this month that he expects the bill to pass with bipartisan support.
House Republicans disagree on whether to reauthorize the bank. Conservatives, led by Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling of Texas, argue that the agency long has furthered cronyism and corporate welfare.
Supporters, including Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, and outgoing Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia, argue that the bank helps businesses compete in a global market and leads to new jobs.
Boehner and Cantor have said they would not introduce a bill reauthorizing the bank, thus bypassing the Financial Services Committee, and instead would defer to Hensarling.
Although conservatives aren’t convinced leadership won’t change its mind and get into the fight, Goodman said he is confident Boehner, Cantor, and Majority Leader-elect Kevin McCarthy of California will stick to their word.
“That’s what people hate about Washington,” Goodman said. “They use these backroom deals that get done in the dead of night. I take our leaders at their word. They’re opposed [to bypassing the committee], and they want to follow regular order, and I think that they will do that.”
With the Senate preparing to pass a bill reauthorizing the bank, he said, the Conservative Action Project’s memo was intended to speak directly to House Republicans:
There’s universal agreement among conservatives that this is just not the proper role of government — particularly with Ex-Im. It’s our hope that a member would read [the memo] and would be able to say, ‘Look, grassroots supporters in my district are going to hear if I vote the wrong way on that.’
Movement in the House against reauthorizing Ex-Im received a substantial boost when McCarthy, in a national TV appearance, advocated letting the charter expire. The Californian will take over as majority leader at the end of the month, and conservatives view the looming fate of Ex-Im as a major test with repercussions for his future in leadership.