Monday, April 11, 2016

What's going on with Ex-Im?

I'm staying home from work today due to my first experience with food poisoning, which is apparently what it takes to get me to write again. I figured at this important time in our nation's history we should focus our attention on the Export-Import Bank and what exactly is going on with it at the moment. I wrote about this about a year and a half ago when conservatives managed to get a vote to extend the authorization of the bank for only nine months instead of seven years like the D.C. establishment wanted. That meant another fight on the issue in June of last year. I predicted conservatives would lose this battle. They actually won that particular vote, and the Ex-Im Bank was not re-authorized. However, I waited before pronouncing judgment, because as with all things government, nothing is ever as it seems.

Just a few months later in October, the House voted 313-118 on a stand-alone measure to reauthorize the bank, including all Democrats voting in favor. This is important because this discharge petition only considered one issue, the re-authorization of the bank, so nothing else was at stake. Around the same time there was also an attempt to attach a rider re-authorizing the bank to the highway bill being considered in the Senate. That was initially shot down, but when the final highways bill was approved in December, a full, four-year re-authorization of the bank was included. So I may have been wrong about the vote in June, but I was not wrong about reform conservatives being unable to push through a relatively mild policy initiative that should have been able to garner bipartisan support, at least from bipartisan voters if not their elected representatives, who one and all get big donations from big businesses. What I wrote a year and a half ago still rings true:

"The Tea Party, for all its uncoolness, knows something that reform conservatives do not. If you want to wield political power, you must first have it. It's not enough to appeal to the ideology to which every Republican appeals to get elected in his primary. You have to have political power and you have to hurt somebody with it before you are taken seriously. You can't be a wine club that writes articles for online conservative magazines and expect to get anything done."

But there is good news. My main source for all this information is Veronique de Rugy at National Review, and here is the last thing she wrote about it:

"The reauthorization of the bank’s charter hasn’t brought the crony program back from the dead entirely. In fact, the situation hasn’t changed much at all. That’s because the agency lacks enough board members to authorize deals above $10 million. These large loans over $10 million are the bread and butter of the program — a program that specializes in serving big businesses."

Basically, while the Ex-Im Bank has been fully reauthorized, they need at  least three of their five board members to vote in favor of loans exceeding $10 million, and they currently only have two active board members. In order to get more, the president must appoint them and the Senate must approve, as I understand it. Until then, the Ex-Im Bank can only authorize loans less than $10 million, meaning the vast majority of its business still cannot be conducted. That's good, but there were more than 66 votes in the Senate for re-authorization and I already gave you the House vote. That's enough to override a presidential veto. Even with Ted Cruz as president, they might find a way to a full restoration of the bank, even if Obama or the next president refuses to appoint more board members.

Now that's whack.