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Three Races in Which Export-Import Bank Could Be an Issue

Walberg opposes reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank, and his Democratic opponent is ready to make it an issue in Michigan's  7th District. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Walberg opposes reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank, and his Democratic opponent is ready to make it an issue in Michigan’s 7th District. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 11:20 a.m. | In a handful of competitive races around the country, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and its recruits intend to make an issue of the Export-Import Bank charter’s lapse, especially now that large American corporations are blaming Congress for lost contracts and American jobs.

The jobs General Electric will create overseas either already exist or would have been created in Maine, New York, Texas and South Carolina.

The DCCC already aired radio ads calling out Maine Republican Rep. Bruce Poliquin in August for being the only member of his delegation not to back the bank, and an aide at the Democratic campaign arm told CQ Roll Call there will be more paid media against Republicans on the issue.

It’s uncertain when or if the bank’s charter will be renewed, but its proponents in Congress are hoping it can be done before the end of the month. Tennessee GOP Rep. Stephen Fincher is pushing to bring renewal to the floor via a discharge petition.

Poliquin sent Fincher and Illinois Sen. Mark S. Kirk a letter Wednesday morning with several proposed changes to the bank, saying, “With this ongoing commitment to work together for change, I will be in a position to support the reauthorization of a more effective and accountable Export-Import Bank.”

If it’s reauthorized soon, the bank may not be much of a campaign issue next year.

But for Democrats in competitive districts looking to strike a contrast with GOP incumbents, the potential job losses inspired by the bank’s lapse gives them a fresh talking point.

Colorado’s 6th District: The campaign of Democratic state Sen. Morgan Carroll expects to make the bank an issue in the Leans Republican contest against GOP Rep. Mike Coffman, who is against reauthorization.

“Congressman Coffman wants to dismantle a program that supports Colorado businesses — an out-of-touch position that is bad for the district and will certainly provide a contrast to Senator Carroll’s record of creating good paying jobs,” campaign manager Jennifer Donovan said in a statement to CQ Roll Call.

Michigan’s 7th District: Responding to threatened job losses, Democratic challenger Gretchen Driskell blames four-term GOP Rep. Tim Walberg, who opposes reauthorization, in this Leans Republican contest.

“Like his vote to fast-track TPP, Tim Walberg choosing to let the Export-Import Bank expire is costing Michigan good-paying jobs,” Driskell said in a statement to CQ Roll Call Tuesday.

“We plan to make it clear to voters that my record of attracting businesses and generating jobs in Michigan couldn’t be more different than Congressman Walberg’s ideological agenda that is costing our state jobs,” she added.

Iowa’s 1st District: Vulnerable freshman Rep. Rod Blum told a local radio show he was “perfectly fine” with the bank’s expiration the day after it expired. President Barack Obama twice won Blum’s district by double digits, and the Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report/Roll Call rates his race Tilts Democrat.

The campaign of Democratic challenger Monica Vernon plans on playing up Blum’s “support for fringe, right-wing special interests over Northeastern Iowans,” according to campaign manager Michelle Gajewski. Part of that message is pointing to the bank charter’s lapse.

“Congressman Blum’s refusal to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank shows just how out-of-touch he really is,” Gajewski told CQ Roll Call.

Opponents of the Export-Import Bank maintain that the agency is a corrupt example of crony capitalism that only benefits America’s largest corporations, primarily Boeing.

But while conservatives have pushed the Ex-Im debate to the right in Congress, they’ve had less success making it an election issue at home.

Fincher, a onetime bank opponent who has emerged as its biggest GOP champion, comes from deeply red Western Tennessee.

His critics accuse him of having been “corrupted” by Washington and his service on the Financial Services Committee .

But despite being targeted by the Club for Growth in a TV ad earlier this year, he’s not facing a serious primary threat. He won his last primary by 79 percent.

“Even when opposition to Ex-Im was highest, it still took an enormous effort to explain it outside the Beltway,” a source at a conservative outside organization said in explaining why the bank hasn’t provoked GOP primaries.

“Add to that storyline a rarely used congressional procedure, the election of a new House speaker, and a presidential campaign and the difficulty of getting Ex-Im back on the public’s radar is that much greater,” he added.


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