House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Rep. Steve Knight, representing California’s 23rd and 25th congressional districts respectively, have joined a growing list of GOP conservatives who oppose renewing the charter of the Export-Import Bank.
McCarthy may be the most high-profile lawmaker who could be caught in the middle, if he agrees to schedule a vote. House Speaker John Boehner has signaled that he could allow a vote on renewing the bank’s charter, thereby prompting opposing factions to continue a tug-of-war that has lasted for at least six months. The U.S. Export-Import Bank helps to create and sustain American jobs by financing sales of U.S. exports to international markets.
GOP conservatives have generally considered the bank as another form of corporate welfare. McCarthy’s move could help with his anticipated bid for speaker next year. But there could be backlash among conservatives, if the bank’s authorization is renewed as a result of him agreeing to let the vote proceed.
“The fight over Ex-Im is no longer just about policy, it’s a larger battle between the current power structure represented by the [Southern California] legislator and (Texas Rep. Jeb) Hensarling,” a McCarthy aide told The Hill, a political website. “There’s already talk that a vote on a Hensarling measure to strip away reauthorization of the bank is a test vote for his (Hensarling’s) future leadership run.”
Knight was quoted in a recent column in the Los Angeles Daily News stating that letting the bank’s charter lapse would put “American jobs at risk.” The comment is considered a big surprise considering that he is reportedly among the list of people who oppose reauthorization.
“If we allow the bank to close its doors, the families that I serve who rely on these businesses for their well-being would suffer immensely, and that is unacceptable,” Knight said. The Palmdale congressman originally rejected the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank, a move which reportedly gained him the admiration and support of Tea Party groups and other conservatives who consider the bank nothing more than crony capitalism.
During last year’s congressional campaign, Knight completed a questionnaire for a local professional aerospace union. It asked whether he supported reauthorizing the “U.S. Export-Import Bank” and he reportedly responded: “I do not support reauthorizing the bank.” Then Heritage Action for America, a conservative political group, picked up the response and reportedly used his statement to gauge his performance as a conservative lawmaker.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee subsequently blasted Knight in a statement last week: “Knight abdication of duty means that businesses across the 25th District and the nation could stop exporting and even go out of business.” Knight’s office has explained the apparent flip-flop by stating that the freshman congressman was “still studying the issue” last year when he completed the questionnaire.