South Carolina Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R) is adamant that he’s opposed to reauthorizing the Export-Import bank, a government-financing agency that has become a hot button issue among conservatives seeking to allow its charter to expire.
So why did he help produce a draft bill to reauthorize the bank?
The answer is complicated, and part of the explanation why advocates on both sides of the issue are convinced Mulvaney is ultimately working to protect the bank, whose most significant beneficiary, The Boeing Company, has a large presence in Mulvaney’s home state.
After Breitbart News reported Monday Mulvaney supports re-authorization, his office requested a correction. “I’m actually formally whipping against the Export-Import bank. I’m absolutely opposed to reauthorization,” Mulvaney said in a tense hallway interview the next day.
The South Carolina Republican appealed to his colleague, Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, a strong advocate for “ExIm,” as it is called colloquially, for backup. “Mick and I have a gentle disagreement about this,” Luetkemeyer, who worked with Mulvaney on the draft reauthorization bill, said.
Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-IN), another participant in the working group that produced the draft ExIm bill that says he is opposed to reauthorization, explained the strategy behind his and Mulvaney’s involvement.
“My first position is not to reauthorize. My second position is to reform it,” Stutzman said, acknowledging that he might vote for a reauthorization bill, depending on the circumstances.
“We don’t control procedure, all we can control is talking to members. Our first effort is to find members that are completely fine not reauthorizing it. But if something all of the sudden changes, we want to have a product ready,” he added.
That approach has left conservative outside groups who are anxious to kill the Export-Bank deeply suspicious of the group’s true motives – and especially Mulvaney’s, since he has also begun work assessing support for immigration legislation.
Several people with knowledge of the effort also offered another take on the “first” purpose of the drafting effort – that it was less a true motive for the group and more a cleverly-designed piece of political cover.
“I think Mulvaney is trying to find the common ground where conservatives can wrap their minds around reauthorizing the bank,” said an industry lobbyist deeply involved in the effort to reauthorize ExIm.
“I think he’s playing a productive role in bringing conservative reforms to the bank that are needed. We’re dealing with semantics here. Are you ready to let the bank shudder? Maybe [House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb] Hensarling is,” the source added.
Mulvaney’s position on the issue is especially important because he’s running to become the next chairman of the Republican Study Committee, the GOP’s conservative caucus group.
Although he’s been seen as a conservative leader since he was elected to Congress in 2010, figures in the conservative movement off of Capitol Hill expressed concern about his ideological direction in a series of independent conversations over the past several months.
His embrace of immigration reform, and his complicated role on the Export-Import bank, are likely to increase the glare of the spotlight.