Sen. Lindsey Graham said Republicans should not let ideological idealism divert them from the primary goal of job creation while advocating for the Export-Import Bank Thursday.
“If you want to defund this bank and allow China and Europe to have an economic advantage over people in the United States, then I think you’ve lost your way as a conservative,” Graham asserted while touring a business in New Hampshire that has benefited from the federal agency’s financing with fellow Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte, according to The Associated Press.
Ex-Im, which provides financing and loan guarantees for American exporters, has been a divisive issue for the GOP since last summer. A number of prominent Republicans, including Reps. Paul Ryan and Jeb Hensarling, attempted to prevent Congress from extending its charter, calling the bank an example of “corporate welfare.”
Other Republicans, though, believe the bank is necessary to ensure American exporters remain competitive against foreign rivals that benefit from their own export-credit agencies.
The two camps ultimately worked out a compromise as part of the Cromnibus bill last year, extending the bank’s charter until June 30 and setting up a repeat of the debate at a time when there are likely to be fewer side-issues to complicate the vote. (RELATED: Is the Export-Import Bank Done?)
Graham’s comments were likely a salvo directed at House Republicans, who are among the bank’s loudest critics in Congress. Senate Republicans are largely in favor of a long-term reauthorization, with many claiming the bank is a vital source of jobs.
“I want you to come up here and tell these people why they need to lose their jobs because of your ideological purity,” Graham dared his absent counterparts. “I’m not going to unilaterally surrender as a nation and cost good jobs in my state.”
A number of large interest groups have taken sides on the matter, with pro-business groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers supporting the bank, while many free-market and conservative organizations such as Heritage Action, Club for Growth and Freedom Partners oppose it. (RELATED: Lobbying Powerhouses Duke it Out Over Ex-Im Reauthorization)
Kate Bernard of the Exporters for Ex-Im Coalition, which straddles both the pro-business and conservative perspectives, told The Daily Caller News Foundation that, “There is broad, bipartisan support for reauthorizing the Ex-Im Bank, which is why Democrats and Republicans in both chambers have introduced bills to extend the Bank’s charter.”
Heritage Action communications director Dan Holler, for instance, disagrees with Graham’s portrayal of conservatism in this context.
“It is commonsense that conservatives shouldn’t prolong the life of an FDR-era institution that caters to major corporations like Boeing, GE, and Caterpillar, and Wall Street titans like JP Morgan and Bank of America,” he told TheDCNF.
“More than 99% of exporters operate without Ex-Im,” Holler observed, and suggested that Republicans “should allow Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama to defend the 1%.” (RELATED: Small Business Becomes Pawn in Ex-Im’s Fate)
Bernard, on the other hand, contends that, “Reauthorizing Ex-Im should appeal to any lawmaker who wants to stand up for jobs.”
“Over recess,” she explained, “Members of Congress heard first-hand from local manufacturers and exporters about how Ex-Im supports jobs and communities,” and Graham’s comments are evidence that lawmakers are taking the message seriously.
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