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U.S. Rep. Hensarling invites Republican lawmakers to 'Ex-Im 101'

By Susan Cornwell

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Representative Jeb Hensarling, who favors closing the U.S. Export-Import Bank, has invited his fellow House Republicans to a closed-door briefing Tuesday to discuss the fate of the export financing agency, several Republican aides said on Monday.

The aides said Hensarling may have felt the need to counter stepped-up activity by supporters of the bank who have been lobbying U.S. lawmakers to keep the 80-year-old institution alive beyond the end of September.

The agency, which provides loan guarantees and insurance to local exporters as well as credit to foreign purchasers of U.S. exports, will be forced to close its doors if Congress does not act to renew its charter by Sept. 30.

One House Republican aide said the Tuesday meeting appeared to be aimed at Republican members who were not on the House financial services committee – chaired by Hensarling and which recently held a lengthy hearing on the bank - and so may not know that much about the agency.

The session hosted by Hensarling was expected to be a "kind of an Ex-Im 101" about the bank and why it should be retired, said the aide, who asked not to be named.

A spokesman for Hensarling declined to comment.

Hensarling is a leading conservative voice urging the closure of the bank. Ex-Im's foes see it as an example of "corporate welfare," and an effort by the government to pick winners and losers in the private sector.

Republican lawmakers are divided over the issue, and House Speaker John Boehner, a past supporter of the bank, has so far stayed on the sidelines. Boehner and Hensarling met last week to discuss the bank.

Ex-Im had bipartisan support when it was last reauthorized by Congress in 2012, and Democrats generally still support it.

In a speech at a Washington think-tank in May, Hensarling blasted the bank, saying its demise would be "one of the few achievable victories for the Main Street competitive economy left in this Congress." Many Tea Party-aligned conservatives in Congress agree with him.

(Reporting by Susan Cornwell, editing by G Crosse)

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