Hoyer thinks Boehner could revive Ex-Im

Hoyer thinks Boehner could revive Ex-Im
© Greg Nash

House Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerA time for war, a time for peace — and always a time to defend America Esper's chief of staff to depart at end of January Soleimani killing deepens distrust between Trump, Democrats MORE (R-Ohio) has shown little appetite for extending the Export-Import Bank in the face of staunch conservative opposition from within his own ranks. But Rep. Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerHouse poised to hand impeachment articles to Senate House to vote on Iran war powers bills sought by progressives Khanna: Timing of Iran bill being weighed against getting bigger majority MORE (D-Md.) thinks that soon could change.

Based on talks he's had with Boehner this summer, Hoyer thinks the Speaker will find a way to revive the controversial bank, whose charter expired in June, despite the conservative pressure to bury it. 

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“I think, in my discussions with the Speaker, that he believes that it ought to pass because I think he believes that it's costing us jobs and economic opportunities,” said Hoyer, the House’s No. 2 Democrat.

“I talked to the Speaker in July, before we left [for August recess], … and we had a positive conversation,” Hoyer added. “Now, he didn't promise me [he'd] do X, Y or Z … But based upon my conversation with him, I'm hopeful that he will be bringing this bill to the floor in one form or another in the near future.”

The Ex-Im debate has sharply split Republicans, putting Boehner in a bind.

A number of his troops support the bank, which helps provide financing for U.S.-made products sold to foreign buyers, and GOP Rep. Stephen Fincher (Tenn.) has introduced legislation extending its charter through fiscal year 2019. That proposal has been endorsed by 61 Republicans, including Reps. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) and Pat Tiberi (R-Ohio), who are close allies of Boehner.

But another large group of conservative Republicans oppose the concept. The critics –– most notably Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb HensarlingThomas (Jeb) Jeb HensarlingLawmakers battle over future of Ex-Im Bank House passes Ex-Im Bank reboot bill opposed by White House, McConnell Has Congress lost the ability or the will to pass a unanimous bipartisan small business bill? MORE (R-Texas) and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) –– argue that it encroaches on free-market principles. In 2012, GOP leaders had to go around Hensarling in order to reauthorize the charter.

Boehner, for his part, supported the renewal effort in 2012. But he hasn't taken a definitive stand this year, and some of his statements have appeared contradictory. He's largely deferred on the issue to Hensarling.

“I support any plan that the chairman can get through his committee –– whether it would reform the bank, wind it down,” Boehner said earlier this year. “But there are thousands of jobs on the line that would disappear pretty quickly if the Ex-Im Bank were to disappear. So I told the chairman he needs to come up with a plan.”

Hoyer, emphasizing the broad bipartisan support in 2012, predicted the renewal bill would pass easily with between 275 and 300 votes –– if Boehner would bring it to the floor. 

“I don't think we need much of a strategy. It's got the votes. Bring it to the floor, we'll vote it up or down,” Hoyer said. “In my opinion, the leadership of Mr. [Eric] Cantor and McCarthy have given Mr. Hensarling a lot of time to work on his support. If he can defeat the bill, he'll defeat the bill. I don't think he can do that.”

Fueling the debate, General Electric announced Tuesday that it will send 500 domestic jobs overseas, citing the expiration of the Ex-Im Bank as the specific reason.

“Congress left us no choice when it failed to reauthorize the Ex-Im Bank this summer,” said John Rice, GE's vice chairman.

Ex-Im critics were quick to reject that argument. 

Dan Holler, spokesman for Heritage Action for America, a conservative group adamantly opposed to the bank, said GE is welcome to shift jobs overseas to reduce overhead, “but the company's attempt to blame politicians for that course of action reeks of multi-national crony capitalism.”

“It would be inappropriate for Congress to use this as an excuse to put taxpayers back on the hook for GE’s international business deals,” Holler said in a statement.

Noting the broad bipartisan support for Ex-Im's renewal, Hoyer accused Boehner and GOP leaders of dishonoring earlier vows to let the House work its will.

“This is a specific, and I think flagrant, example of the dysfunction of the Republican leadership in this Congress,” Hoyer said. “There is little disagreement that the loss of Ex-Im's ability to help with loans will cost America jobs, and John Boehner has said that repeatedly. 

“Nevertheless,” he added, “it's not to the floor.”