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Conservative groups say Export-Import Bank a key test of GOP principles

House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy of Calif., arrives for GOP leadership elections, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, June 19, 2014. House Republicans elected McCarthy as majority leader, party's No. 2 post. (AP Photo)

Two major conservative groups are pushing House GOP leaders to terminate the Export-Import Bank this month, and letting the Bank expire is a key test of whether Republicans are serious about advancing conservative principles.

"The Export-Import Bank is a small thing, this we know," the Club for Growth and Heritage Action for America wrote Monday to House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). "But Leader McCarthy, if you can't start with the Export-Import Bank, then how can Americans trust the Republican Party to tackle the big challenges our nation faces after six years of President Obama and his failed policies?"

House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy of Calif., arrives for GOP leadership elections, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, June 19, 2014. House Republicans elected McCarthy as majority leader, party's No. 2 post. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite Rep. Kevin McCarthy of Calif. is being asked by conservatives to allow the Export-Import Bank to expire this month, which is posing an early dilemma for the new Majority Leader. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

The fate of Ex-Im has been shaping up as a key test for GOP leaders, especially after the primary defeat of former Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), who supported the Bank. McCarthy, his replacement, has been on the record as saying he opposes Ex-Im, something Club for Growth and Heritage Action noted in their letter.

"We were greatly encouraged by your comments on Fox News Sunday on June 22nd, in which you stated that the Export-Import Bank is 'something government does not have to be involved in. The private sector can do it,' " they said. "You also quite explicitly answered 'yes' to the question of whether or not you would allow the charter for the bank to expire."

But despite McCarthy's position, signs have emerged that the House will provide a short-term extension for Ex-Im sometime in the next few weeks, possibly as part of bill to fund the entire government. House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Henslaring (R-Texas) also wants to see Ex-Im terminated, but reports say he's fine with a short-term extension, which would give him time to reach an agreement on how to finally wind it down.

Many conservatives see the Bank as a classic example of a government excess that picks winners and losers in the economy, subsidizes foreign companies, and is no longer needed. Ex-Im provides financing and loan guarantees for foreign companies looking to buy U.S. goods and services, and has long been seen as a major way to boost exports of Boeing aircraft.

But Club for Growth and Heritage Action have pointed out that companies who buy Boeing aircraft have said they could do so without Ex-Im financing. Last week, Heritage Action Communications Director Dan Holler noted press reports saying Emirates, an airline out of Dubai, said Ex-Im is no longer needed.

"With one of Boeing's top customers downplaying the importance of the taxpayer-backed bank, lawmakers are running out of excuses to save it," Holler said Friday. "Instead of looking for procedural maneuvers to save this fund for corporate welfare, the Republican-controlled House should simply allow it to expire."

And while Ex-Im has been stressing its importance to exporting companies over the last few months, the letter dismissed those efforts as a public relations campaign meant to hide the fact that the Bank's subsidies mainly benefit "politically connected companies that receive its subsidies."

In a memo to his GOP colleagues last week, McCarthy did not mention how Republicans will handle Ex-Im, although again, some extension is expected. A House aide said leaders have not provided any specifics in public about how or when they'll deal with the issue.

Read the letter from Club for Growth and Heritage Action here:

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