Norquist: No shutdown over Ex-Im, please

Grover Norquist, president of the conservative Americans for Tax Reform, said Thursday that Republicans should not shut down the government in September because of the Export-Import Bank.

Tea Partiers and more centrist Republicans have sparred in recent months about Ex-Im's future. Congress must reauthorize it by Sept. 30 or it will shut down.

Most strategists think Ex-Im will be wrapped into a short-term resolution that Congress needs to pass by the end of September — or risk another government shutdown just weeks before the midterm elections.

"I'm with the guys who say, 'Let's get rid of the Export-Import Bank,' " Norquist told The Hill. 

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"[But] you can't right now — with a Democratic Senate and Democratic White House — force them to do anything. I think Ted Cruz's efforts a year or two ago demonstrated that nothing good flowed from that stand-off for taxpayers or the American people," Norquist said.

Norquist was referring to Cruz, the junior senator from Texas, who was a leading player in the most recent government shutdown, in late 2013.

"This is not the time or the place to have a showdown," Norquist said. “We’re about to have an election. This is not the last word on this. It’s not like the only time to end the Export-Import Bank is Tuesday. As a matter of fact, if we win the Senate, then we’re in a much stronger position.”

More centrist Republicans and most Democrats support Ex-Im's reauthorization, arguing it is needed to help finance American businesses in emerging markets. But Tea Partiers and other Ex-Im critics, such as Norquist, argue that its activities amount to cronyism, with contracts being awarded to big businesses and politicians' favorite companies.

Norquist, a prominent activist within Republican circles, could provide cover for House Republicans in tough midterm races who don't want to upset their base by being seen to support "corporate welfare" but also don't want to upset big business donors who support Ex-Im.

Norquist said "cronyism" will be a prominent message for Republicans to tap into during the looming 2016 presidential cycle — but he warned, if they shut down the government, the message will be lost in translation.

“This administration is drenched with corporate and corrupt cronyism. And going back to the Clintons — if Hillary’s the presidential candidate, that’s what she and her husband did for eight years, too," Norquist said. "So I think it’s a wonderful issue to bring up — but you don’t raise the issue of corporate cronyism by offering to shut the government down."