Speaker John A. Boehner was cagey Tuesday morning when asked whether an extension of the Export-Import Bank would be included on the upcoming continuing resolution to keep the government funded. But GOP leadership looks poised to extend the export credit agency, despite opposition from fiscal hawks and a couple of powerful conservative groups.
Boehner told reporters he was working out the details of an extension with Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling, a prominent opponent of the bank, and the Ohio Republican said Hensarling “thinks the temporary extension of the Export-Import Bank is in order.”
“Whether it’s a separate issue or in the CR — yet to be decided,” Boehner said.
Hensarling has been the bank’s most formidable political barrier. But if the Texas Republican is onboard with a short-term extension, the matter becomes largely a fait accompli, and it doesn’t matter whether it’s on the CR or not. Putting it on the continuing resolution probably makes it easier to pass, as Democrats who may have been disinclined to vote for a short-term extension may be even more disinclined to vote against funding the government. Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., told reporters Tuesday he didn’t want to speculate on Democrats withholding votes on the CR if Ex-Im was included, but he said he thought the bank needed to be extended for “five years minimum.”
Of course, if House Republicans can send a CR to the Senate with a short-term extension, they may believe they’re jamming Senate Democrats on the issue. The Senate can amend the CR for a longer Ex-Im extension, but it’s unclear whether either chamber or either party, Republican or Democrat, really want to risk another government shutdown before an election over an issue that Jack Kingston, R-Ga., characterized Tuesday as “more of a corporate board room worry.”
Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers of Kentucky said he was confident the CR would pass with significant Republican support. And he said the top-line spending level on the bill would be $1.014 trillion. According to Rogers, the bill also would include money to address the Ebola outbreak in Africa, and would give some border agencies “more flexibility” on spending decisions, though not necessarily more money.
But Rogers was less than clear whether the Ex-Im Bank would be included on the spending bill to keep the government funded past Sept. 30.
Members coming out of Tuesday’s GOP conference meeting, however, seemed to have the impression that the bank would be included.
The conference meeting focused heavily on the turmoil in the Middle East — former Vice President Dick Cheney was the featured speaker — and the CR didn’t even come up as a topic of discussion until the last 10 minutes of the hour-long meeting, sources said. The narrative from GOP leaders and members seems to be that Congress ought to get the CR and Ex-Im off its plate so that it can deal with issues surrounding the terrorist threat.
“Ex-Im is not the biggest issue this country faces today,” said Bill Flores, R-Texas. “It is an agency which, in principle, I do not support. But it is not worth having a big fight today. The American people do not want us to imperil the stability of the federal government over Ex-Im.”
Of course, plenty of House conservatives don’t see it exactly that way. Firebrand Republican Justin Amash of Michigan, for example, said Tuesday morning that “of course” conservatives should not support the CR if it includes an Ex-Im reauthorization.
“We’re going to have more discussion with them, and we’ll find out,” Amash said of whether it’d be included.
Indeed, Tom Price, R-Ga., said he thought Ex-Im and CR discussions “continue to go on.”
“What we’ve been pushing for is for a short-term extension of Ex-Im, either with the CR or not, doesn’t make a whole lot of difference,” Price said in a Southern drawl.
Price has voted against Ex-Im reauthorizations in the past, so his newfound support for a short-term extension is significant. Conservatives may be thinking a small extension into December, which is when the CR is expected to expire, could help them permanently end the credit agency, which helps finance the foreign purchase of domestic goods. But that seems like a significant change from Hensarling’s let’s-do-nothing position, which conservatives favored.
Whether it’s included on the CR won’t be a lingering question. Rogers said he expects to file the bill today, and the House is expected to vote on it Thursday.
Emma Dumain and Tamar Hallerman contributed to this report.
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