"When Washington picks winners and losers, in the end taxpayers always lose, and Ex-Im is no exception," DeMint wrote in an editorial May 5 in the Greenville News. He described himself as a "South Carolinian, an American and a guy who likes cool planes," and added, "I love Boeing."
Days later, the House passed reauthorization of the self-financing agency for three years and raised its lending cap from the current $100 billion to $140 billion. After the Club for Growth, which rates politicians on their adherence to its conservative agenda, said it would score a vote in favor of the bank as against that agenda, 93 House Republicans opposed the bill.
Chris Chocola, president of the Club for Growth, said though it lost on the Export-Import Bank, the prolonged debate was a positive development.
"The world has changed," Chocola said in an interview. "People understand that the size and scope of government is not just entitlements. It's also transportation bills. It's also programs like Ex-Im bank. It's corporate welfare as well. And things that have automatically been reauthorized are being questioned as to whether that's really good policy and whether we can afford it."
Blair Latoff, a spokeswoman for the Chamber, said the organization understands that lawmakers are not going to agree with it 100 percent of the time.
Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington state, home to major Boeing facilities, recalled at least five or six times when reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank occurred with no problems.
"All of sudden to throw it up in that kind of disarray when we need to win in the international marketplace — we need to be competitive in getting U.S. manufacturers products into international markets," she said in an interview. "It was definitely disappointing."
Brian Hansen, vice president of Dustrol Inc., an asphalt recycling and resurfacing company in Towanda, Kan., came face to face with the new political reality on the transportation bill.
Hansen was part of a group of Kansas construction industry executives who met with the state's congressional delegation and staff in May to press for the transportation bill.
"They are all in favor of it but nobody wants to fund it. That's the big problem," Hansen said. "It all boils down to money and how are we going to pay for it. With the economy and all the other issues going on, everybody is very reluctant to talk about funding anything with any type of increase, which is ridiculous when infrastructure is one of the few things the federal government should be involved in."
Freshman Republican Rep. Tim Huelskamp of Kansas was one of those who voted against both the Ex-Im Bank and the transportation package. "Conservative folks like myself believe in the marketplace making decisions," he said.
Associated Press writer Joan Lowy contributed to this report.
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