Finance

Cruz under fire from Texas businesses

Greg Nash
 

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is under fire from his home state’s business community following a “rowdy” meeting on Wednesday at which the lawmaker’s senior staff refused to offer support for reauthorizing the Export-Import (Ex-Im) Bank.

Nearly 60 business officials visiting from Texas met with Cruz chief of staff Paul Teller and Legislative Assistant Hunter Rome for an hour on Thursday, making the case for Cruz to support the bank’s reauthorization.

If Congress does not act, Ex-Im will shut down on June 30.

But Rome and Teller reiterated to the Texas crowd — which helped elect him into office — that Cruz views the bank as “cronyism” and “corporate welfare,” designed only to prop up big businesses.

“It’s low-hanging fruit,” Teller said at one point during the meeting, according to three attendees.

“I gave him a chance to clarify that answer, and he did not,” said William Schubert, president of International Trade & Transportation, Inc., who attended the meeting. “Shame on Sen. Cruz. I voted for him, but we’ll see if I would vote for him again.”

Schubert, who was a U.S. Maritime official in the George W. Bush administration, and other meeting attendees said they left feeling like Cruz was placing political ideology over Texas job creation.

“We’re his supporters, and he’s deserting us on this issue,” Schubert said. “I consider myself a Tea Party conservative. But this isn’t a Tea Party opposition — this is the libertarian-isolationist wing of the party.”

Cruz Communications Director Amanda Carpenter told The Hill that the office disagrees with the attendees’ portrayal of the meeting. But she said that Cruz’s “position opposing reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank has been very clear.”

“That said, we will always welcome constituents into our office to talk about issues they care about, whether they agree with the senator’s position or not,” she continued. “We appreciate the value of free and open debate, and hope they do as well.”

Ex-Im financing has supported $26 billion worth of Texas exports since 2007, with 1,629 businesses having used the bank in that same time period — 890 of which were small businesses, according to data from the bank.

“They had no interest in understanding our desires and our needs to having Ex-Im reauthorized,” said Ed Grand-Lienard, CEO of Special Products & Manufacturing.

The meeting came as reps from nearly 700 businesses of all sizes from 41 states descended on Capitol Hill this week for an estimated 400 meetings to urge reauthorization for the Export-Import Bank.

Grand-Lienard, who also supported Cruz in the past, said that, of all of his meetings with lawmakers and their staff this week, “this one had a different vibe.”

“Rowdy,” was how Schubert put it.

“Appalled,” was how Patrick Patel, corporate controller at Gaumer Process in Houston, left the meeting.

“I explained once more how not having the bank would drastically reduce the expansion plans and hiring of new employees,” Patel said. “[They] just said we should find other solutions. [They] had no alternative solution for us.”

The Texas business community has proven crucial in the battle to reauthorize the bank. House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) is another fierce opponent of the bank. He hasn’t said whether he’ll move a reauthorization bill through his panel, which has jurisdiction over the bill.

A Democratic House bill with more than 160 co-sponsors would reauthorize the bank for seven years, while a Republican version with 58 co-sponsors has more stringent reforms and would reauthorize it for five years.

Sens. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) are working on a reauthorization bill in the upper chamber.

— This story was updated with additional information at 11:06 a.m.

Tags Joe Manchin Mark Kirk Ted Cruz
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