Export-Import Bank seeks billions more to fund cronyist operations

The Export-Import Bank has formerly requested reauthorization from Congress, and the controversial agency is seeking more money at a time when its ties to politically connected businesses are facing scrutiny from conservatives.

The reauthorization bill that has been presented to the House Financial Services Committee seeks to raise the Ex-Im Bank’s lending cap to $160 billion by 2018.

The bank’s activities have made passage of reauthorization an uphill battle. House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) seems poised to bury the agency, which, he says, is the “face of cronyism.”

“I have always believed that re-authorizing the Export-Import Bank is a bad idea. In many respects, it’s the face of cronyism. So I was surprised, but not shocked, to see the bank ask Congress to raise its lending cap by $20 billion, to $160 billion,” Hensarling said in a statement on Friday. “Only in Washington can a taxpayer-subsidized program whose only purpose is to pick winners and losers ‘fail upward’ by requesting more money.”

The Ex-Im Bank has come under fire from fiscal conservatives seeking rollback wasteful spending and taxpayer-backed subsidies to businesses. The bank has become known as “Boeing’s Bank,” a reference to the purportedly ”private” airplane manufacturer. It has also doled out money to Russian business owners with ties to Vladimir Putin, SolyndraEnronMexican drug cartels, and foreign state-owned businesses.

Hensarling says that the Ex-Im Bank’s activities have set off “alarm bells,” pointing to a 2012 inspector general report which explained that the agency’s “current risk management framework and governance structure are not commensurate with the size, scope, and strategic ambitions of the institution.”

“It is inconceivable that the bank is seeking a sizable increase in taxpayer exposure at a time when its own Inspector General has raised serious concerns about its risk management capabilities,” said Hensarling. “What may be most disturbing is that the Bank’s response to concerns of mismanagement and increased taxpayer risk isn’t to address those concerns – it’s to ask for even greater authority.”

The House Financial Services Committee will hold hearings on reauthorization of the Ex-Im Bank in the coming months. Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), who was key to the agency’s reauthorization in 2012, has indicated that he’s not going to get involved this time around.

Conservatives both inside and outside of Congress argue that the fight over the Ex-Im Bank will send a message to Americans that Republicans are ready to fight cronyism, part of their effort to change the narrative about the party.

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