Republicans are about to cave on the crony Ex-Im Bank, surrendering more ground to the Obama White House

After months of a very public debate over the future of the Export-Import Bank, House Republicans are poised to temporarily extend the life of the controversial New Deal-era agency to avoid any drama before the mid-term election.

The Ex-Im Bank has, rightly, been criticized by conservatives both inside and outside of Congress because it has become symbolic of cronyism, the marriage of big government and big business. The Bank has doled out billions of dollars in taxpayer-backed loans to some United States’ biggest corporations, including Boeing, Caterpillar, General Electric.

Despite the efforts of some members willing to take on cronyism, House Republicans are poised to reauthorize Ex-Im, albeit temporarily, instead of risking a big fight before the chamber, because, apparently, there’s never a good moment to get into a debate over bad policy:

Speaker John Boehner on Tuesday signaled the House will extend the Export-Import Bank’s charter, saying that one of the institution’s biggest critics is on board.

The Ohio Republican said he is working with Texas Rep. Jeb Hensarling, the Financial Services chairman, who “thinks a temporary extension of the Export-Import Bank is in order.”

A few things about this. First, there’s probably very little Hensarling, one of the fiercest critics of the Ex-Im Bank, can do, outside of keeping a temporary reauthorization off of the upcoming Continuing Resolution. Secondly, the short-term reauthorization deals with a mid-December date, which, if passed, means that there will be a lame-duck session of Congress. That’s hardly an ideal scenario, especially if Democrats lose the Senate.

Lastly, House Republicans are doing exactly what President Barack Obama, who has endorsed and publicly lobbied for reauthorization of Ex-Im, wants them to do:

The White House on Tuesday said it was “heartened” by leading Republicans coming out in favor of a temporary extension in authority of the Export-Import Bank, as lawmakers consider including the measure in a government-funding bill.

“This is not a controversial position,” said White House press secretary Josh Earnest, noting that President Ronald Reagan signed an extension for the Export-Import Bank. “This is a position that is espoused by the Chamber of Commerce.”

It’s also the complete opposite of where then-candidate Obama stood on the issue in 2008, when he called Ex-Im “little more than a fund for corporate welfare.”

The question for House Republican leaders is this: When it is an appropriate time to have serious debates over bad policies? Apparently, it’s too much to ask that these debates weeks out from an election. It’s too much to ask that it be done in off-years elections, too. It sounds like there is no time that’s good for House Republican leaders to take up any issue, even one as small, though symbolic, as the crony Ex-Im Bank.

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