There are a number of things to consider―aren’t there always?―about the weekend dispute between Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and pretty much the rest of his Republican colleagues in the United States Senate. First and foremost, Tierney Sneed brings the latest, in the form of a five-point overview, for the aptly named Talking Points Memo.
The elephant in the chamber, such as it is, however, is the entire question of the Export-Import Bank.
The Ex-Im controversy is, in a word, absurd.
Would you like a few more? How about worthy of ridicule.
Naturally, Mr. Cruz wants in.
It is a difficult proposition, but sometimes it seems as if some Republicans intentionally undertake difficult positions in order to draw flak and then complain about the critique. Nor should we constrict ourselves to the proposition of complaining about the content of the critique, since so much of conservative rhetoric relies on outrage toward the fact that a critique exists at all.
Let’s try working backwards. Well, sort of. The Ex-Im controversy is a weird tinfoil blip; it keeps coming up. September last, for instance, Steve Benen observed, amid a question of whether or not the U.S. government would be forced into a shutdown:
Today was supposed to be the day. The Republican-led House would pass a stopgap spending measure – called a “continuing resolution,” or “CR” – that would fund the government until mid-December. At that point, the prospect of a pre-election shutdown would disappear and House members could focus almost exclusively on campaign activities for the next eight weeks.
But yesterday afternoon, plans changed. The vote was delayed, in part because of President Obama’s request for additional counter-terrorism resources, and in part because quite a few House Republicans oppose the Export-Import Bank, which is included in the spending bill.
Just how serious is the right about opposing Ex-Im? It depends whom you ask.
Serious enough, it turns out. In December, Danny Vinik of The New Republic explained:
In fact, many of the issues requiring Congressional action next year were on the agenda this year, as well. They passed a debt ceiling increase in February, a dox-fix in March, a patch for the highway trust fund in July, and an extension to the Ex-Im bank in September. In the next few days, they will likely pass an extension of the tax extenders and an omnibus bill that funds most of the government for the remainder of the 2015 fiscal year. The only real legislative deadline in 2015 that didn’t also exist in 2014 is the expiration of the Children’s Health Insurance Program. But Congress faced other deadlines this year as well, like the farm bill, which don’t come up next year. In other words, 2015’s legislative deadlines aren’t any more worrisome than 2014’s.
So why has fiscal and policy uncertainty returned? Part of the reason is that Congress already kicked the can down the road with the highway trust fund and Export-Import bank. Can they really do that again? (Yes, but it might be harder to do so.)
Did you catch that? It’s a blip. It just keeps coming up. In June of last year, Benen noted:
[I]magine a fight in which the White House, the Chamber of Commerce, House Democrats, and business lobbyists are on one side, while Tea Partiers, Sen. Bernie Sanders, and the billionaire Koch brothers’ political operation are on the other.
That’s exactly what’s happened in the debate over something called the Export-Import Bank, which Congress will need to reauthorize by the end of September if it’s to continue to exist. The entity, also called the Ex-Im Bank, has been around for 80 years, extending loans to foreign entities so they can more easily buy American products.
Congressional support for the Bank has always been one-sided – critics have never come close to defeating it and votes have been lopsided, when they’ve been held at all (the Bank has routinely been reauthoritized by unanimous consent) – but things are different this year.
At the time, the White House found itself at odds with Congressional Republicans, who started lining up against Ex-Im for reasons never too clear, though Benen noted, “the incoming Majority Leader is prepared to let the Export-Import Bank die because he sees it as a way to keep his right flank happy – and as a way to keep his leadership post past November”. This, in turn, is hardly satisfactory.
After all, what is the hardline objection Mr. Hensarling is supposedly accommodating?
Something about a blip goes here. In 2011, Benen noted a tinfoil gaffe from Rick Perry’s presidential campaign:
Are Republicans still talking about this? I remember writing an item setting the record straight more than a year ago, after having seen it debunked two years ago.
According to the right-wing chain-email that made the rounds, President Obama loaned $2 billion to a Brazilian oil company to drill for oil in Brazilian waters, to benefit China. As part of the story, Obama reportedly roped in George Soros as an investor.
In reality, a Brazilian oil company, PetroBras, received a loan from the independent Export-Import Bank, approved by appointees of the Bush/Cheney administration. Soros is part of the project, but his investment came in 2008 — months before the Export-Import Bank agreed to make the loan.
The Export-Import Bank agreed to the loan, by the way, in large part because PetroBras agreed to use U.S.-made oilfield equipment and services on the project.
What Perry said, in other words, wasn’t even close to the truth. He’s just repeating some odd story he heard, as if it were accurate. It’s not.
No, really. A blip. Keeps coming up. And now, this.
Which brings us back to Mr. Cruz.
The Texas tinfoil conspiracy theorist.
Pulling that stunt in the United States Senate.
For a tinfoil conspiracy theory.
This is the Ted Cruz Show.
Image note: Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks to reporters following a rare Sunday Senate session on Capitol Hill in Washington, Sunday, 26 July 2015. Senior Senate Republicans lined up Sunday to rebuke Cruz for attacking Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, an extraordinary display of intraparty division played out live on the Senate floor. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Benen, Steve. “Take the Chain-emails away from Perry”. Washington Monthly. 2 September 2011.
—————. “The strangest of political bedfellows”. msnbc. 24 June 2014.
—————. “A new Majority Leader tries to find his footing”. msnbc. 11 September 2014.
Sneed, Tierney. “5 Points On Ted Cruz’s Sunday Senate Shenanigans”. Talking Points Memo. 27 July 2015.
Vinik, Danny. “Republicans Are Responsible for Heightened Fiscal Uncertainty”. The New Republic. 5 December 2014.