House Republicans on Tuesday unveiled details of a stopgap spending bill to keep government operating through Dec. 11 that includes money to fight the Ebola outbreak, reauthorizes the controversial Export-Import Bank through the end of June 2015, and extends the moratorium on taxing the Internet.
It was no secret that the House planned to act on a continuing resolution to keep government funded beyond the Oct. 1 start of the new fiscal year. Lawmakers returning Monday to Washington for two weeks of work after the August recess have made it clear they wanted to avoid the possibility of a shutdown of agencies and operations during the stretch run before the Nov. 4 elections.
But the fate of the Ex-Im Bank, which provides loans to foreign companies to help them buy American products, had been less certain.
The bank's current authorization is set to expire on Oct. 1. And though generally supported by Democrats, conservatives led by Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling of Texas have opposed its renewal. Critics say it is a form of "crony capitalism," that it interferes with the free market, and that it puts taxpayers on the hook for loans.
Even new Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy had said in June, shortly after his leadership election, that he intended to let the bank's charter expire. And internal party counts have had as much as half of the entire House Republican conference opposed to renewal.
But the prospect of shuttering the bank was upsetting many business leaders. And Speaker John Boehner and others were able to convince Hensarling and others to go along with the temporary extension through June 30, to allow more time for deciding what to do on a more permanent basis.
"Leadership has worked with Hensarling. I think this is a reasonable compromise," said Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers.
The decision to move forward with an Ex-Im renewal—even a short-term one—prompted criticism from the conservative Heritage Action for America, which has said it will score the vote on Ex-Im as a key vote for lawmakers in its ratings.
"Conservatives are understandably wary when Washington promises to fight another day, especially without an ironclad promise from leadership that this is the last reauthorization ever," said Heritage Action spokesman Dan Holler. "Instead of asking conservatives to cast their vote to reauthorize this fund for corporate welfare, House Republican leaders should stand up to President Obama and K Street."
Democrats, meanwhile, have lobbied Republicans to extend the Ex-Im Bank for at least five years, and it's unclear how many votes the minority party will contribute when the measure hits the House floor.
The House Rules Committee on Tuesday night announced it will be holding a hearing at 2 p.m. Wednesday to set floor procedures for a vote later this week.
Rogers pointed out that the continuing resolution includes flexibility for agencies in some spending decisions, and also includes $88 million to help pay for the government's response to the Ebola outbreak in western Africa.
(Image via Flickr user Gage Skidmore)