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Zombie Bank: Ex-Im Threatens to Rise from the Dead

We’ve barely finished sweeping up the confetti from our celebration of the U.S. Export-Import Bank’s long-overdue demise, and already, Congress is scheming to bring the thing back.

Leadership does not have the votes for a clean reauthorization of the Bank. The public now understands that the Bank is merely a fund for corporate welfare, not a necessary or useful part of the national economy, and the political consequences of Members bucking the will of their constituents makes a simple up or down vote a non-starter.

So, when congressmen want to do things their voters don’t want (the title “Representative” is hilarious, isn’t it?) they have to get sneaky. The plan is a simple one: attach Ex-Im Bank reauthorization to another bill so important that no one will be willing to kill it. Every year, there are a few of these, usually having to do with funding the essential functions of government. Leadership knows that failing to authorize this funding is not on the table, and so attaching a barely-relevant, wildly unpopular provision like the Ex-Im Bank is a pretty easy way to go around the traditional democratic process.

The next, and most likely candidate for a must-pass bill is the reauthorization of highway funding known as the DRIVE Act. Since the federal highways that run through states need to be maintained and repaired, and the states themselves lack either the funding or authority to do this, pretty much everyone in Congress needs this bill to pass. This makes it a perfect vehicle, from leadership’s perspective, to push through Ex-Im reauthorization. And if we don’t do anything to stop it, the plan will succeed.

The most important thing is that your congressmen and senators hear from you and know that they’re not fooling anyone. Tell them not to vote for any bill that contains reauthorization of the Ex-Im Bank. If they want to reauthorize it, let them do it as a standalone vote and not try to hide from their constituents. The idea is to make the Bank so politically toxic that no one will touch it. The only way to do that is with phone calls, messages, and social media letting Congress know that any vote for corporate welfare will come with a heavy political cost.

Ending the Ex-Im Bank’s authorization for the first time in 80 years was a great achievement. Now we have to remain vigilant to ensure it doesn’t rise from the dead.