An Ex-Im lobby in Boehner’s backyard

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is coming under pressure to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank from his own backyard.

GE Aviation, a subsidiary of General Electric (GE), has a plant in Evendale, Ohio, that benefits from Ex-Im’s financial assistance for aircraft production around the world. Many of GE Aviation’s 9,000 employees in southwest Ohio live in Boehner’s district.

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The Evendale plant, which is in a district neighboring Boehner’s, makes jet engines for several global airplane manufacturers, including Boeing and Europe’s Airbus, said GE Aviation spokesman Rick Kennedy.

Kennedy said the company has “reached out to all of the Ohio delegation” urging reauthorization. GE Aviation is the largest exporter in Ohio, with more than half the firm’s $22 billion in 2013 revenues derived from international sales, Kennedy said.

“The bank was an important facilitator,” Kennedy said. “Everyone in the Ohio delegation is intimately aware of our position.”

Boehner has always supported the bank, but it has become a cause célèbre for conservatives who are looking to kill it.

Influential Republicans, including Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (Texas) and Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (Wis.), argue it is a form of crony capitalism in which the government plays a role in picking the economy’s winners and losers.

Delta Airlines has argued the bank’s support for the building of aircraft around the world has allowed some of its competitors to undercut it in ticket prices.

Supporters argue that the 80-year-old bank sustains U.S. jobs, and helps American companies secure financing in international markets in order to stay competitive with China.

Though he has supported it in the past, Boehner has been tight-lipped this go-around about his position on the bank, saying he’ll allow members to work on the issue. His office declined comment for this story.

Congress needs to reauthorize Ex-Im by Sept. 30, or it will shut down.

Boehner and Hensarling met last week to discuss reauthorization, among other issues, but Boehner told reporters last week that there was “nothing to report as of yet.”

Should Hensarling fail to move a bill, Boehner could bypass Hensarling and bring a reauthorization bill directly to the floor. Such a move, strategists argue, is politically risky because it could be interpreted as Boehner bucking the Tea Party.

Hensarling is slated to host a meeting on Tuesday for House Republicans about the reauthorization.

The local chapter of the UAW, a union representing workers at the Evendale plant, is organizing a petition for later this month that urges Boehner to reauthorize Ex-Im.

“It’s a national issue, but it’s a hometown issue for him, too, and Speaker Boehner wears a much larger hat,” said Gary Jordan, president and chairman of UAW Local 647, which has supported Boehner’s political opponents in the past.

Jordan added: “Instead of being tight-lipped, this is where Speaker Boehner needs to have some open dialogue. Not only do I hope he’ll be a leader as a congressional individual, but as Speaker of the House.”

According to a review of Federal Election Commission filings from the Center for Responsive Politics, political action committees and individuals affiliated with GE contributed $19,850 to Boehner’s campaign committee during the 2012 cycle, and $17,200 to his committee during the 2010 cycle. 

Hensarling, rumored to be mulling a House leadership position in the fall, has emerged as one of the bank’s chief critics and is on the same side of the issue as Tea Party groups such as Heritage Action and The Club for Growth.

He has declined comment on whether he’ll allow the committee to take up a bill. Should he not, Ex-Im supporters have one last hope: that Boehner would bring a bill to the floor.

“This has the potential to be a dangerous game of chicken for both of them,” said one senior Republican strategist, who opposes Ex-Im but asked not to be named to speak more openly about the issue.

House Majority Leader-elect Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) surprised most Ex-Im policy wonks when he said last month on Fox News that he would not support Ex-Im reauthorization, despite having supported it in the past.

 Most interpreted McCarthy’s new position on Ex-Im as posturing in anticipation for a second leadership election in November, where he’ll likely fight for a second term as outgoing Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s (R-Va.) successor. Cantor supported Ex-Im reauthorization.

“It’s going to come down to Boehner,” predicted Chris Chocola, president of the Club for Growth, which opposes reauthorization. “The only way it gets reauthorized is if Boehner uses his position to do it — it’s clearly in his lap.”