GOP grills Export-Import Bank president at hearing

Republicans grilled Export-Import Bank President Fred Hochberg during a hearing on Wednesday, arguing that he has not implemented reforms that Congress mandated in 2012.

Ex-Im critics characterized the bank as a form of corporate welfare as they debated whether to renew the organization’s charter, which will expire on June 30.

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Republicans are badly divided over whether to renew the bank, with fiscal conservatives led by House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb HensarlingThomas (Jeb) Jeb HensarlingHas Congress lost the ability or the will to pass a unanimous bipartisan small business bill? Maxine Waters is the Wall Street sheriff the people deserve Ex-GOP congressman heads to investment bank MORE (R-Texas) arguing the government should end the program.

On Wednesday, they also criticized Hochberg's leadership — just two days after Department of Justice officials charged a former bank employee with bribery.

“How do you think the American taxpayer looks at these things?” Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) asked Hochberg. “I can tell you — this is the part of government that just drives them crazy, this kind of coziness, this kind of closeness, this kind of connectedness drives them crazy.”

Hensarling criticized Hochberg for traveling around the country to press business groups to call for the bank to be reauthorized.

“Perhaps, maybe a little bit more time managing the store and a little less time with the photo-ops lobbying for your reauthorization may lead to fewer indictments,” Hensarling said.

Hochberg kept his cool throughout the two-hour hearing, repeatedly making the case that Ex-Im benefits small businesses — not just big businesses, such as Boeing. 

The bank offers financing to U.S. companies on overseas projects. It is intended to increase U.S. exports.

Several Republicans, including Rep. Trey GowdyHarold (Trey) Watson GowdyOur sad reality: Donald Trump is no Eisenhower GOP takes aim at Comey, Brennan House Dem calls on lawmakers to 'insulate' election process following Mueller report MORE (R-S.C.), criticized Treasury Department officials for not negotiating with foreign governments to end subsidized exporting programs, as was mandated in the 2012 reauthorization bill.

Nathan Sheets, under secretary for international affairs at the Treasury Department, insisted the agency's officials had fulfilled their requirements, but Gowdy was skeptical.

“I'm going to tell you this, Mr. Sheets, right now, the single best argument against reauthorization is you,” Gowdy said.

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), the top Democrat on the committee argued that one indictment shouldn't put the entire institution's future at risk.

“This begs the question: What exactly are we doing here?” Waters asked. “We’re wasting time while the anti-government, anti-American-worker wing of the Republican party works desperately to let the clock run out — on the Ex-Im Bank, on U.S. businesses and on the many American taxpayers whose jobs and families count on its support.”

There are several congressional proposals that would reauthorize the bank's charter, each of which include varying levels of reforms and are supported by business groups, including the National Association of Manufacturers and the Chamber of Commerce.

But in a problem for the bank’s supporters, a growing number of likely Republican 2016 presidential candidates have come out against its reauthorization.

Former Fla. Gov. Jeb Bush and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker oppose the bank, as do GOP presidential candidates Sens. Marco Rubio (Fla.) and Ted Cruz (Texas).