Ten years ago, I covered the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank. This morning, I was doing it again.
I care about Ex-Im, because I think it is the government program that most clearly represents the sort of corporatist mindset -- Big Government in service of Big Business -- that pervades the leadership of both parties, especially our current White House.
This time around, given the whole anti-bailout sentiment and the Tea Party's supposed populist, limited-government imprint on the House majority, I thought maybe things could get interesting. Maybe someone would throw up a roadblock to reauthorizing a government agency that exists to subsidize -- at taxpayer risk -- the sales by U.S. manufacturers (mostly Boeing).
But today I sat through the most uneventful and non-contentious markup I've ever seen. It was the international trade subcommittee of the House Financial Services Committee.
Subcommittee Chairman Gary Miller gave a few minutes of remarks, dispassionately reading from a script about how this reauthorization is needed to “ensure the Export-Import Bank has the tools it needs to help United States companies.”
Miller praised the agency as “an example of how government can facilitate job growth without contributing to the national debt.” This was a reference to the fact that a few years back, Ex-Im's book was moved off budget. It lends out the money it takes in, and underwrites its guarantees with its own money too. Of course, the U.S. taxpayer is the backstop if Ex-Im ever starts bleeding money.
Remind me, do banks ever lose money? Do government-sponsored credit institutions ever run into trouble?
Miller, in his opening statement, used the word “bipartisan” a handful of times, lauding “Colleagues from both sides of the aisle to put Americans before politics.”
Then ranking member Carolyn McCarthy gave concurring comments for about a minute. Then they moved onto the actual business. The clerk began reading the bill, for a couple of seconds, before Miller cut her off with, “without objection, we will consider the bill as read.” He then offered a substitute amendment. McCarthy then offered an amendment to the substitute, ordering a study of the methodology by which Ex-Im estimates every billion dollars of exports equals 74,000 jobs.
Then Miller ordered a vote on McCarthy’s second-degree amendment. All in favor? Aye. All opposed….. silence.
Then a vote on Miller’s substitute. All in favor? Aye. All opposed? None.
Then a vote on the newly amended bill. All in favor? Aye. All opposed.
Then we were done. The bill had passed the subcommittee, with all the negotiation and debate having gone on behind closed doors. Rep. Ron Paul, who sits on the subcommittee and regularly opposes reauthorization of Ex-Im, was absent. Maybe he'll show up in full committee and try to get some answers about corporate welfare in the time of huge budget deficits.