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The Export-Import Bank has become a Tea Party test for prospective 2016 candidates.
In a series of recent high-profile public appearances this week, top potential Republican candidates have criticized the Bank as "crony capitalism" and "corporate welfare."
Congress must reauthorize the bank by June 30 or it will shut down.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzMatthew McConaughey on potential political run: 'I'm measuring it' Professor tells Cruz that Texas's voter ID law is racist Schumer moves to break GOP blockade on Biden's State picks MORE (R-Texas) each called for eliminating the bank during public remarks at the Club for Growth's winter conference in Palm Beach, Fla., according to press reports.
The Club for Growth is one of the prominent Tea Party groups opposing Ex-Im's reauthorization.
"I think most of these things should be phased out," Bush said at the event earlier this week, as reported by the American City Business Journals. "Ex-Im is a smaller one. … We should find ways to lessen the contingent liability of the federal government."
Their remarks come as the business community flooded Capitol Hill this week with officials from nearly 700 businesses in 41 states, making the case to lawmakers that the bank helps sustain millions of U.S. jobs.
And the remarks follow a contentious meeting with Texas business officials and senior Cruz staffers in which the Texas business community left the meeting saying Cruz was putting political ideology above job creation.
Tony Fratto, managing director at D.C.-based Hamilton Place Strategies, which is working to reauthorize Ex-Im, told The Hill that if the bank's charter "expires, you will see some firms go out of business and workers lose jobs. … Opposing exports and supporting overseas businesses isn't a great formula for winning elections."
"Presidential candidates will get a chance to learn how the Ex-Im Bank works, and how it's important to thousands of businesses and their workers and communities," said Fratto, a former White House official to President George W. Bush.
"Republican governors, mayors and members of Congress support Ex-Im, and whatever the rhetoric of presidential contenders, so do actual presidents," Fratto said.
During the 2008 campaign, then-Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) said on the campaign trail that Ex-Im was “little more than a fund for corporate welfare." But as president, he has urged lawmakers to reauthorize its charter.
“This is a program in which we help to provide financing to sell American goods and products around the world. Every country does this,” Obama said at a press conference in August 2014. “We will lose business and we will lose jobs if we don't pass it.”
Dan Holler, spokesman for Heritage Action, a Tea Party group critical of Ex-Im, said that the recent remarks from top-tier potential Republican 2016 candidates shows the growing opposition to the bank.
“The question for congressional Republicans is whether they’re willing to undercut a growing consensus among potential 2016 candidates that the Export-Import Bank isn’t worth saving," Holler told The Hill.
"It will be difficult for the eventual Republican nominee to campaign against corporate welfare if party leaders in Congress are doing the bidding of K Street," Holler said.
Most lawmakers in Congress support its reauthorization, arguing that it helps U.S. businesses make inroads into emerging markets where the private sector won't finance projects.
Supporters of the bank have ripped the Ex-Im critics for supporting an "isolationist" economic agenda that they say is out of touch with how global economics works.
Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.), a prominent supporter of Ex-Im on the House Financial Services Committee, criticized Walker in a tweet.
"So now, @GovWalker wants to eliminate @EximBankUS? The more @ScottWalker talks, the more he exposes his complete lack of fiscal competence," she tweeted Saturday.
There are several bills that have already been introduced or will be introduced in Congress to reauthorize the Bank.
And while a reauthorization bill would likely pass the Senate, it's unknown whether such a bill would pass the House.
House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) has adamantly made the case against the Bank's reauthorization, saying it puts taxpayers at risk and only helps big businesses like Boeing.
Hensarling, whose panel has jurisdiction over a reauthorization bill, hasn't said whether he will move a bill through his panel.
A senior House staffer to a Republican member said that "the more people learn about Ex-Im, the more they recognize it for what it is: the same old Washington way of rigging the system to favor the politically connected."
"Subsidies and favoritism are not the keys to economic growth," the staffer said. "Any Republican who hopes to win in 2016 must support a positive, pro-growth agenda — not continued corporate welfare like Ex-Im."
The scrutiny surrounding the Bank has only increased. Earlier this week, The Hill first reported new details about a 2013 internal investigation at the bank in which a worker was fired for inflating invoices.