By Justin Sink - 06/24/14 01:57 PM EDT
President Obama will have "zero tolerance" for fraud and corruption at the embattled U.S. Export-Import Bank, the White House said Tuesday, amid reports that the bank has suspended or removed four officials over alleged kickbacks.
But the White House said it does not believe the allegations will complicate efforts to renew the charter of the controversial government lending institution, which helps to underwrite U.S. exports.
The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that officials at the bank allegedly accepted gifts and cash, and improperly attempted to award contracts or steer loans.
The revelations come as top House Republicans, including incoming Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), have said that they do not want to reauthorize the 80-year-old finance agency when its charter expires in September. McCarthy and other conservatives have argued the private sector could fulfill the same role as the government lending institution.
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) declined to endorse reauthorization at a press conference on Tuesday.
“My job is to work with our members to get to a place where the members are comfortable," Boehner said. "Some people believe that we shouldn’t have it at all. Others believe that we should reauthorize it with significant reforms, and we’re going to work our way through this.”
Earnest insisted the allegations of fraud should not make it harder to lobby for the bank, saying "the numbers speak for themselves."
"The tangible impact that the Ex-Im Bank has on our economy and job creation is reason enough for Congress to act in [a] bipartisan fashion again, as they have many times, to reauthorize the bank," he said.
The White House spokesman also noted that "other individuals who are not well-known as Obama supporters" — including the heads of the Chamber of Commerce and he National Association of Manufacturers — had backed renewal of the bank.
"The stakes here are pretty high," Earnest said. "There is bipartisan agreement that there is a tangible contribution that Ex-Im is making to the American economy and to American job creation, and there is bipartisan agreement that it needs to be reauthorized."