While details remain sparse, the gist of the compromise is a one-year extension with some policy tweaks, audits, added transparency and a multi-national effort to abolish export subsidies. It will be sold to conservatives as a plan to wind down the Ex-Im Bank, but that pitch rings hollow unless the bill actually sunsets the Bank and Congressmen Cantor and Hoyer publicly sell their compromise as the beginning of the end for the Bank.
If lawmakers are committed to scoring legislative achievements that “stands on the principles of smaller, more accountable government” that “can be implemented today” they would seize the opportunity presented by allowing the Bank’s legal charter to expire. If they believe an expiration would be somewhat chaotic, they could opt to wind the Bank down, as suggested by Congressmen Justin Amash (R-MI) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ).
The Export-Import Bank Termination Act of 2012 (H.R.4268) sets up a structure to shutter the Bank in just three years. Some have argued that the bill would have to come up with an offset, since the Bank makes a profit for the U.S. Treasury. The response is simple: we could sunset the Bank and return a profitable function to the private sector AND cut more spending. I say, game on!
Sadly, inside Washington, this constitutes high drama, but for most Americans, it represents the status quo. Rather than having an honest debate about the Ex-Im Bank – whether it should be reauthorized and expanded or allowed to expire – lawmakers are trying to split the difference and declare victory, while perpetuating the status quo.
Among the “adults” in Washington, there is always the temptation to pre-negotiate the optimal political solution to every legislative problem. That approach has resulted in nearly $15.7 trillion in debt and 37-straight months of unemployment above 8%. In short, it failed.
Rather than trying to “overcome” conservative objections to the Bank, House Republican leaders should stand on principle and their Pledge by allowing the Ex-Im Bank to expire.