Hensarling to vote for funding despite Ex-Im extension

A deal for a short-term reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank has put the institution’s chief critic, Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), in a tough political spot.

The chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, which has jurisdiction over the bank’s charter, is an ardent critic of the bank, having long argued that it should not be renewed before it expires on Sept. 30.

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But on Wednesday, Hensarling offered his reluctant support for a stopgap funding measure to avoid a government shutdown, even though the bill reauthorizes the bank through June.

“I intend to support it assuming it comes to the floor,” Hensarling said following prepared remarks at Hillsdale College’s Kirby Center in Washington D.C. 

The deal to extend the bank’s charter came despite a fierce campaign by conservative groups to disband the bank this year.

The stopgap bill would fund the government through Dec. 11 and extend Ex-Im through June. If Congress does not pass a funding bill by Oct. 1, the government will shut down.

Hensarling had been tight-lipped ahead of Tuesday’s release of the continuing resolution. But he made clear his displeasure with the move.

“I do not believe that Ex-Im should be part of the CR,” he said Wednesday. “I regret that the Republican conference is putting it there.” 

Hensarling, though, also declared a small political victory, noting that, in June the bank’s charter would be up for debate, when lawmakers were not distracted by avoiding a shutdown.

“I view an opportunity to decouple the expiration date of the Export-Import Bank from the expiration of ... a continuing resolution to be progress,” he said.

As chairman of a powerful committee and a lawmaker who has harbored leadership aspirations, Hensarling has long had support from — and sway with — Tea Party groups. 

His support for the continuing resolution puts him at odds those with groups, including Heritage Action, which played a large role in drumming up support against the bank.

Critics are vowing to keep up pressure against the bank, with Heritage Action and Club for Growth urging lawmakers Wednesday to vote against the stopgap funding measure.

Heritage Action spokesman Dan Holler said conservatives are “understandably wary when party leaders promise to fight another day.”

“There is always another excuse,” Holler said. “So, instead of asking conservatives to cast their vote to reauthorize this fund for corporate welfare, House Republican leaders should stand up to President Obama and K Street.”

But if the bank charter is extended, Tea Party groups will again need Hensarling to lead the charge against Ex-Im.

Holler said that, while they’re appreciative of Hensarling’s role “in elevating the issue, the fight to end Ex-Im has become bigger than the chairman.”

Levi Russell, spokesman for the conservative Americans For Prosperity, called it “disappointing” to see Ex-Im extended until June.

“But clearly, Hensarling is playing a pivotal role in the debate,” Russell said. “And having it isolated from the CR gives us an increased chance of beating it in June. I’m glad to see it not tied to the 2014 lame-duck session.”

“It’s not perfect,” said Adam Brandon, executive vice president of FreedomWorks. “But the way he was able to separate it from the CR? I give him big props for that.”

“He’s still the leader to stop Ex-Im,” Brandon said.

This story was updated at 9:01 p.m.