• Rep. Flores: Ex-Im Is A ‘Modern Day Enron’

    Opponents of the Export-Import Bank scored a major coup Thursday when the 170-member Republican Study Committee officially came out against reauthorizing the bank.

    “The Republican Study Committee will not support the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank and believes that the bank should begin an orderly wind down when its charter expires on June 30,” said Rep. Bill Flores, the RSC’s Chairman, in a press release. “Federal bureaucrats should not be picking business’ winners and losers.”

    Flores outlines the RSC’s reasoning in an op-ed for The Washington Examiner co-written with Republican Sen. Mike Lee, in which they call Ex-Im “a prime example of the perils of Washington’s ‘government knows best’ philosophy.”

    While “the bureaucrats who run the bank believe that government can outwit markets and help some businesses at the expense of others,” they explain, “we know … that America can compete in a modern global economy without interference.”

    Moving beyond economic considerations, they go on to describe Ex-Im as “a modern day ‘Enron’ of the federal government,” pointing out that, “when such an agency wields the heavy hand of governmental power, mismanagement, misconduct and corruption become the norm.” (RELATED: ‘Complete Lack of Control’ Threatens Huge US Loan)

    At a recent congressional hearing, for instance, Ex-Im Chairman Fred Hochberg admitted that over the last six years, the bank had compiled a rap sheet that includes “Sixty-five matters referred to prosecution, 31 arrest warrants, 85 indictments, 48 criminal judgments, decades of combined prison time, [and] a quarter of a billion in fines, restitution, and forfeiture.”

    Nearly one-third of all House members are affiliated with the RSC, and the group’s announcement was welcomed by conservatives working to shut the bank down, who believe the RSC may give them the numbers they need to prevent reauthorization. (RELATED: Hensarling: ‘Momentum is in Our Favor’ for Ending Ex-Im)

    “As the largest group of Republican Members of Congress, the RSC’s decision to oppose the reauthorization of Ex-Im clearly demonstrates the widespread support for ending Washington’s culture of corruption,” exulted Freedom Partners spokesman James Davis in a statement.

    “The addition of Congressman Flores and the RSC to this fight is vital in sending a message that Republicans see no place for the fraud and corruption of Ex-Im,” Club for Growth president David McIntosh said in a press release. “Their statement—that Ex-Im is broken and should expire—is the conservative position, and stands in sharp contrast to Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Harry Reid, and Nancy Pelosi, who are desperate to save the bank’s corporate welfare for their cronies in the big corporations that benefit from Ex-Im.”

    Ex-Im supporters, conversely, sought to downplay the announcement, claiming that RSC members are far from unanimous on the matter.

    “Chairman Hensarling is doing everything he can to prevent a vote on the bank,” observed Tony Fratto, a partner at Hamilton Place Strategies and former Treasury and White House official. The reason for Hensarling’s urgency, Fratto claimed, is that he knows “a majority of House members, including many members of his own committee and party, wants to reauthorize Ex-Im.”

    “Not only do we have support in the Republican Study Committee,” Fratto added, “33 RSC members are actually co-sponsors of the House Ex-Im reauthorization bill.”

    With the House appearing to vacillate, the bank’s supporters are hoping to use their solid majority in the Senate to put pressure on undecided members of the lower chamber by attaching the issue to more-popular legislation, such as transportation funding or fast-tracking for free-trade agreements. (RELATED: Sens. Graham, Cantwell Threaten to Torpedo TPA Over Ex-Im)

    On Tuesday, for instance, Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell and Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham sought to tie Ex-Im reauthorization to Trade Promotion Authority legislation, widely seen as a key to securing approval of the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership.

    Advocates for the bank hope that many House Republicans, if confronted with the choice directly, will subordinate their concerns about Ex-Im to their desire to advance the cause of free trade.

    Follow Peter Fricke on Twitter


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