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Bipartisanship IS alive in the House

Despite what you've read in the media, the days of bipartisan cooperation in Washington aren't completely behind us. On the contrary, when it comes to reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank, bipartisanship is alive and well in the House of Representatives.

The current battle over this obscure financial institution isn't between the usual suspects. Most Democrats and Republicans actually agree on renewing the bank's charter, and recognize the value they offer in providing much-needed credit support for the purchase of American exports. The real fight over this federal agency is between mainstream Republicans and their Tea Party colleagues.


Rep. Gwen Moore
Bill Clark | CQ Roll Call | Getty Images
Rep. Gwen Moore

Establishment Republicans understand the need to keep American exports competitive on a global level, as do our foreign adversaries. China provided direct export support through its export credit agencies to the tune of $430 billion in exports in the emerging markets in 2013 alone. If we want to keep up with our rivals overseas and keep jobs here at home, most Republicans will tell you that we'll need a strong Export-Import Bank in our corner to level the playing field.

Tea Party Republicans and the far-right think tanks that feed them talking points don't see it that way. They've joined forces in a collective effort to erroneously brand the bank as a New Deal-era relic engaged in cronyism and corporate welfare. It's a carefully crafted narrative that plays well with those riding the national anti-establishment wave, but it falls far short of being true. Several prominent Republicans have rightfully rejected this critique as ridiculous.


"Crony capitalism is truly when you hand out favors to somebody else as a favor for them having done something for you," said Republican Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer of Missouri during a House Financial Services hearing last year. "Yet the federal government helps with SBA loans. Is that crony capitalism? It helps with VA loans to help a veteran own a home. Is that crony capitalism?"

The opposition's claim of cronyism doesn't hold up to the facts. The reality is that the bank is a critical economic expansion vehicle for small businesses across the country. Last year, approximately 90 percent of the bank's total transactions went to American small businesses. Since 2007, this vital financial institution has helped 224 businesses in my home state of Wisconsin – including 135 small businesses – export $5 billion worth of goods and products made in the Badger State. The bank partners with private capital and is demand-driven. The projects it supports are carefully reviewed and receive support based on merit.


The fight over renewing the bank's charter has brought the unlikeliest of stakeholders together from across the ideological spectrum, from labor organizations like the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations and the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers to big business trade groups like the National Association of Manufacturers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle have also united in a collaborative effort to reauthorize the bank so it can continue supporting American businesses and enable them to grow and create jobs.

One of the many Republicans who fought with Democrats to reauthorize the bank is my friend and House Financial Services Committee colleague, Rep. Steve Stivers of Ohio. It's no secret that we disagree on Obamacare, the Iran nuclear agreement and a multitude of other issues, but despite our philosophical differences, we both enthusiastically agree that the bank plays a crucial role in facilitating job growth without adding to our national debt. The support from Rep. Stivers is a prime of example of a devoted public servant unwilling to allow partisan bravado to trump common sense economic policy.


Last week, Rep. Stivers and 42 of his Republican colleagues stood with me and nearly all of the Democratic conference to force a vote on the bank using a rare procedural maneuver – known as a discharge petition. This move is a strong indication that there are still some of us in the House who are willing to work together to prioritize American workers over politics and sound bites. Once the reauthorization bill passes in the House, we'll see if Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his fellow Republican lawmakers in the upper chamber can put aside their own partisan blinders and follow suit.

With HouseSpeaker John Boehner resigning from Congress and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy's refusal (or inability) to fill his shoes, few can question the capacity of the extreme right to assert their influence within the GOP. The real question is simple: How long will mainstream Republicans continue to capitulate to their Tea Party colleagues at our economy's expense? I know of at least 42 House Republicans who are beginning to see the light.

Commentary by Congresswoman Gwen Moore (D-WI) serves as the ranking member on the Financial Services Committee's monetary policy and trade subcommittee and has helped lead efforts to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank. Follow her on Twitter @RepGwenMoore.