Kirk hasn't committed to Manchin Ex-Im bill

Sen. Mark Kirk’s (R-Ill.) office said the centrist senator has no plans to co-sponsor bipartisan legislation to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank.

The move comes after Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced Senate Democrats would organize a vote on reauthorizing Ex-Im, a top priority for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business groups, soon after the July 4 recess.

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Schumer’s move highlights how renewing the Export-Import Bank is becoming more of a partisan issue.

Republicans are divided over renewing Ex-Im, with Tea Party conservatives arguing the bank’s financing of loans and loan guarantees is a form of crony capitalism best left behind.

That’s created an opening for Democrats to highlight their party’s support for Ex-Im. Schumer on Tuesday argued business groups should be more at home with the Democratic Party given the Tea Party’s influence on the GOP on issues such as immigration reform and Ex-Im.

Kirk had been seen as the most likely GOP co-sponsor of the bill given his past support for the bank.

Two major beneficiaries of the bank, Boeing and Caterpillar, are headquartered in Kirk's state. And just last week, Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) told The Hill that he and Kirk planned to introduce legislation. 

Kirk had previously joined Manchin in writing a letter to Senate Banking Committee leaders urging that the panel renew the bank.

But Kirk’s office on Tuesday said he’s made no commitment to supporting an Ex-Im reauthorization bill.

“Senator Kirk has consistently supported the reauthorization of Ex-Im, although he hasn't committed to any specific reauthorization bill to date,” a Kirk spokeswoman told The Hill in response to questions about Manchin’s comments.

“He hopes that if a bill were to reach the floor in July that [Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (R-Nev.)] would allow an open and free amendment process, allowing all senators to have input in this crucial debate,” the spokeswoman said.

Manchin spokeswoman Katie Longo said that Kirk is helping Manchin to “move toward” Ex-Im reauthorization by the Sept. 30 deadline.

If Kirk will not co-sponsor legislation reauthorizing Ex-Im, it could be difficult for Manchin to find a Republican partner.

Schumer said the Senate would seek to move forward with Ex-Im, backed by the Obama administration, to put more pressure on the House.

“I think that if we can pass it in the Senate particularly with a good bipartisan majority ... it will put pressure on the House,” Schumer told reporters.

Manchin told The Hill that his proposal includes Ex-Im reforms, but he did not state specifics due to the negotiations. It's unclear whether his proposal will move more to the left now that Kirk is not part of it.  

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