- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 23, 2015

Sen. Marco Rubio and a conservative ally filed an amendment Wednesday to affirmatively kill off the federal Export-Import Bank, even as supporters of the lapsed agency plotted to revive it as part of debate on a must-pass highway bill.

Mr. Rubio, a Florida Republican who is running for president, and Sen. Mike Lee, Utah Republican, are among outspoken opponents of the agency, which financed the sale of U.S. goods overseas for 81 years before Congress allowed its charter to expire June 30.

Their amendment would abolish the bank and require the Treasury to auction off its assets and obligations.

“The bank is a conduit for taxpayer-subsidized corporate welfare that allows federal government bureaucrats to pick winners and losers in the marketplace,” Mr. Rubio said this month ahead of the highway debate. “The bank’s charter has expired, and it should stay closed for business.”

The fate of the obscure agency has become a type of litmus test for 2016 GOP candidates, with Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas leading a recent pep rally near the Capitol to decry the bank.

As it stands, the bank would fulfill its existing obligations and slowly die off.

The bank’s supporters, though, say they have the Senate votes to reinstate the bank as part of the highway bill.

President Obama is cheering them on, speaking out in support of the bank at mid-week while the Senate cues up floor debate on a six-year deal that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wants to pass and send to the House before a July 31 deadline to keep federal road funds moving.

The administration doubled down on its support for Thursday, saying the highway bill is the most practical route to reviving the bank, known as in Washington-speak at “Ex-Im.”

“Transportation legislation is the most likely legislative vehicle, no pun intended, to move before the end of this month,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said. “And that’s why we’ve insisted that the provisions related to reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank should be added to any transportation bill that passes Congress before the end of this month.”

Conservative groups, meanwhile, are cheering efforts to kill Ex-Im, saying it offered a hand-out to companies that needed it the least.

“Now all U.S. businesses are able to compete on a level playing field — and lawmakers should stand up to the special interests and keep it that way,” said Andy Koenig, senior policy adviser at Freedom Partners, a conservative group backed by the Koch brothers.

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