WASHINGTON (AP) — Conservatives dominating the GOP-controlled House said Tuesday that they are increasingly confident of killing a little-known federal agency that subsidizes overseas purchases of U.S. exports.
They say they'll work to make sure that the Export-Import Bank, whose charter expires at the end of June, won't be reauthorized.
Conservative critics say the bank provides too much of its credit assistance to help huge, well-connected corporations like The Boeing Company and General Electric.
Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling said at a Tuesday news conference that he wants the bank's charter to expire without a vote and said that "the momentum is in our favor."
"This is going to be a critical vote, or hopefully a non-vote, on the future of the Republican Party and the future of our economy," Hensarling said.
That the bank's authority would lapse if Congress fails to act gives opponents a key tactical advantage.
"We in Congress can do what we do best, and that is nothing," said Rep. John Fleming, R-La.
Top House leaders such as Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and Steve Scalise, R-La., agree that the bank's charter should lapse on June 30, but House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, urged Hensarling last month to "come up with a plan" to either wind down the bank's operations or renew its charter with new reforms. Boehner warned that the Senate, where the bank has more support, might outflank the House.
Establishment groups like the Chamber of Commerce say the Ex-Im Bank provides critical loans and loan guarantees to help overseas buyers purchase U.S. products and support tens of thousands of jobs. And they say killing the bank would put U.S. businesses at a disadvantage with foreign firms that benefit from export assistance from their own governments.
But opposition to the bank has energized conservatives who see a rare opportunity to kill off a major government program. Free market conservatives say the bank finances just a minute fraction of U.S. exports and that alternative financing options are available.