Policy: Economy

John Boehner: Scandal could bring down Export-Import Bank

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House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said new allegations about fraud and corruption at the Export-Import Bank influenced his decision to take a harder look at whether Congress should reauthorize it.

"Given where the Export-Import Bank is today, and given accounts of what's gone on down there in terms of kickbacks and other things," Boehner said at a Wednesday news conference, "it's clearly time for all of the members to take a serious look at this."

The Wall Street Journal reported this week that four Ex-Im Bank employees were removed from their positions over allegations that they steered loans to favored companies and accepted gifts and kickbacks.

Boehner would not disclose whether he supports reauthorizing the bank, which provides loans and loan guarantees that help foreign companies buy U.S. goods. He described his role as a facilitator who will help his 233-member conference decide whether take up reauthorization legislation.

If the House doesn't act, the bank could cease to exist when its authorization expires Sept. 30.

A three-year reauthorization bill easily passed with Republican support in 2012, but an increasing number of conservative GOP members oppose the bank because they believe it has evolved into a form of corporate welfare. Many of the companies aided by the bank are large and profitable, and in some cases, the bank is helping foreign companies compete with U.S. firms.

Boehner made the remarks as the House Financial Services Committee conducted a hearing on whether to reauthorize the bank.

The panel's chairman, Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, is a staunch opponent of renewing the bank.

"So who benefits?" Hensarling said at the hearing. "Overwhelmingly, and indisputably, it's some of the largest, richest, most politically-connected corporations in the world."

But Democrats on the panel argued in favor of renewal, saying the bank helps ensure a level playing field for American companies in the global market.

"This is about jobs," Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., said. "If you brought this bill up on the House floor, we would get it passed."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Tuesday he plans to take up the legislation before the Sept. 30 deadline.

The bank's chances of survival are far better in the Senate, where Democrats are in the majority and only five Republicans would be needed to reach a 60-vote threshold on a reauthorization measure.

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