The Republican Study Committee declared its opposition Thursday to reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank, in another sign of momentum for the push to put the 80-year-old institution out of business.
The announcement from the RSC, a conservative caucus of about 170 House members, comes just over a month before Ex-Im’s charter is set to expire on June 30 and underlines the challenges facing supporters of the bank.
"Federal bureaucrats should not be picking business’ winners and losers. Instead, we know American businesses are capable of competing in a free and open market, without government interfering," Flores said.
Congress should shut the bank down "before it becomes another Enron at the expense of American taxpayers,” he said.
Tea Partyers have sought to portray Ex-Im as an illustration of Washington cronyism. They've made it a political wedge issue to force Republicans to choose between the Tea Party and the business community, which supports the bank along with nearly all Democrats.
The RSC's opposition shows the uncertainty about whether or not the House will pass a reauthorization bill.
House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), whose panel has jurisdiction over the bill, has said repeatedly in recent weeks that he didn't think there were enough GOP votes on his committee to move a bill. Hensarling is one of the bank's most outspoken critics.
Rep. Stephen FincherStephen FincherRep. Fincher to retire Export-Import Bank takes step toward renewal Transportation deal includes Ex-Im renewal MORE (R-Tenn.), who has proposed a five-year reauthorization bill that would also structurally change the bank, said that the RSC announcement was "misleading" and that many members of the RSC would vote to reauthorize the bank, despite the group's formal stance.
“These Members realize the importance of the Bank and realize that our constituents do not send us to Washington to shut the world down," Fincher said. “I have nothing but the utmost respect for Chairman Flores, unfortunately this is an issue we disagree on. This is about jobs and when it comes to jobs, I’m not ever going to compromise.”
Tony Fratto, a partner at Hamilton Place Strategies and former Treasury official, echoed that sentiment.
"Not only do we have support in the Republican Study Committee, 33 RSC members are actually co-sponsors of the House Ex-Im reauthorization bill. They deserve a vote on this issue now," said Fratto, who is working to reauthorize the bank.
Lauren Airey, director of trade facilitation at the National Association of Manufacturers, said there's still "broad bipartisan support in both chambers and with leaders across the United States" to reauthorize the bank.
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), who opposes the bank, said in a statement that the RSC's opposition means "the coalition against the Export-Import Bank continues to grow."
"The time is now to end this patent example of corporate welfare," Jordan said.
Tea Party group Americans For Prosperity (AFP) also applauded the RSC's opposition.
"We are encouraged to see the RSC publicly oppose reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank," said AFP vice president of government affairs Brent Gardner in a statement. "American taxpayers do not want to see their tax dollars used to subsidize loans for politically connected corporations."
This story was updated at 4:40 p.m.