Slouching toward partisanship

There are limits to ideology, practical limits. As the Export-Import Bank, the 80-year-old institution that promotes U.S. exports, slouches toward implosion, hidebound partisans are cheering.

So much for the “sensible center.”

Congress has until Sept. 30 to OK the Ex-Im Bank’s reauthorization. What should be a no-brainer — a boost to manufacturers and workers in trade-dependent states like Washington, and a program that doesn’t whack taxpayers — is a political football (if only Franklin Roosevelt hadn’t left his fingerprints, tea party Republicans might be receptive). Per the gridlocked new normal, reauthorization could come together at the 11th hour, after multiple horse trades, hitched to a bill with zero bearing on exports.

Fasten your seat belts and take your beta blocker.

On Tuesday, freshman U.S. Rep. Denny Heck, D-Olympia, introduced the Protect American Jobs and Exports Act of 2014, which extends the bank’s charter until 2021, and stretches the current cap by $5 billion a year.

“If we abandon this resource, we are allowing China, Russia, and European countries to gain ground in export deals previously made with us, the economic equivalent of forfeiting in the World Cup when we know we have the best team,” Heck said in a statement.

Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Everett, who shepherded the bill reauthorizing the bank in 2012, noted that, “in my district, the bank supports thousands of jobs at companies of all sizes by helping these businesses sell their products overseas. The bank successfully finances billions of dollars of exports without costing taxpayers a dime.”

Washington’s Congressional delegation appears united, with strong support from Rep. Suzan DelBene, although Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Spokane, did not sign a pro-Ex-Im bank letter from 42 House Republicans addressed to the Speaker of the House and the new majority leader, Rep. Kevin McCarthy. McCarthy, a tea party conservative, is opposed to the bank, as is the new House whip, Rep. Steve Scalise.

“Failure to reauthorize Ex-Im would amount to unilateral disarmament in the face of other nations’ aggressive efforts to help their exporters,” pro-bank Republicans write with Reagan-esque flourish.

Progressives don’t like helping big business (no matter that the Ex-Em Bank benefits many medium and small-sized exporters in the NW). The tea party prefers the government just keep out. The far right and the far left may succeed in sandbagging the Ex-Im Bank. And we all will be poorer for it.

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