By Russell Berman - 06/24/14 11:20 AM EDT
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Tuesday refused to offer a lifeline to the Export-Import Bank, sending another signal that Congress could allow the lending agency’s charter to expire at the end of September.
Boehner has supported the bank in the past, but in response to questions from reporters, he distanced himself from that position and deferred instead to the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), an outspoken opponent of reauthorization.
The Speaker might have been referring to his past votes as a rank-and-file member, but he voiced public support for the Export-Import Bank as recently as 2012, when he praised an agreement to reauthorize its charter that was struck between outgoing Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.).
Hensarling’s committee is holding a hearing on the bank Wednesday, but no legislation is currently planned.
Supporters of the bank in the business community argue its lending creates U.S. jobs by helping companies reach markets overseas. But critics on the right lampoon it as a prime example of crony capitalism that pads the pockets of giants like Boeing that don’t need taxpayer subsidies.
The bank’s reauthorization had already been in jeopardy due to Hensarling’s opposition, but it took a bigger hit on Sunday when the newly elected majority leader, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), came out against it.
Boehner referred to the bank as “controversial” and made a reference to a damaging report Monday in The Wall Street Journal that four employees there had been suspended or removed amid allegations that they received gifts or kickbacks.
The Chamber of Commerce and the bank’s supporters in the House are ramping up their lobbying campaign for reauthorization following Cantor’s defeat.
Asked if allowing the charter to expire would hurt the economy, Boehner replied:
“I don’t know. We’re going to continue to work with our members and try to get to a resolution.”