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Business Groups at End of Their Tether With Tea Party Resistance

I stand by the opinion – backed up by decades of evidence – that we’re in the midst of an inexorable shift to the right in our politics. But sometimes, that shift really defies any conception of ideology at all. It really is the case that conservatives often knee-jerk oppose absolutely anything the opposition supports. And that brings us to the Ex-Im Bank.

I remember the Ex-Im Bank being a lefty punching bag in the pages of The Nation or Mother Jones. It’s a bank that helps finance the sales of exports to international buyers that commercial banks won’t finance out of wariness of the credit risk. I don’t have a whole lot against it, but this is perhaps the ultimate in a business-friendly organization, something solely in existence to facilitate corporate deals. It’s basically the personal bank for Boeing and, at the time, Enron. And yet, a substantial faction of the hardliners have held up the reauthorization of the agency.

Business groups counting on Republican gains in Congress to deliver their legislative agenda are voicing frustration over obstacles within a party usually allied with their interests.

At least two measures are hitting snags — long-term highway construction funding and authority to keep the Export- Import Bank in business beyond May 31. Many of the Republicans elected in 2010 lean too heavily toward the demands of the Tea Party and other anti-spending groups, business leaders say.

There’s this antipathy against a government program, any government program, even when it’s a government-financed corporate slush fund, even when the corporate sleaze is shouting for its reauthorization.

Despite this tumult, the conventional wisdom says that the Ex-Im Bank will get reauthorized. However, there’s a long way to go on it. Eric Cantor wants some reforms to the bank’s actions, which appear to be limited to reducing their funds and the length of renewal (one year versus four years). But a bipartisan duo, including Don Manzullo, who lost an intra-incumbent primary against a freshman who had backing from Cantor, have introduced the Senate version in the House.

Senate Republicans, meanwhile, who voted down the Ex-Im reauthorization the first time Harry Reid brought it up, wrote him a letter asking him to bring it up again. Hundreds of business trade groups, meanwhile, are lobbying on this measure, looking for a quick renewal. And against them, you have the Club for Growth and the Tea Party, angered that Ex-Im picks economic winners and losers, or just opposed to government programs in general.

This certainly offers possibilities for longer-term trans-partisan alliances on some of these issues, but that’s where that knee-jerk oppositional stance comes in. So basically, you have paralysis on Capitol Hill once again.

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David Dayen

David Dayen