Israel-Palestine now becoming an issue in Ex-Im bank talks

The fight over the Ex-Im bank is now shifting its focus towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. POLITICO reports senators are fighting a battle on whether to include requirements on what cash goes where.

Congress next month is expected to resuscitate the government credit agency that’s been shuttered since July. But senators from both parties are pitching a condition: that applicants for loans essentially vouch support for the Israeli economy in order to be approved. The move, described by multiple sources, is meant to counter a pro-Palestinian campaign to undermine Israeli exports because of its occupation of the West Bank and blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Specifically, the Ex-Im Bank would have to consider whether applicants for loans oppose “policies and actions that are politically motivated” and meant to inhibit “commercial relations specifically with citizens or residents of Israel.” In the past, Ex-Im has taken into account applicants’ stance on human rights and terrorism, prompting advocates of the new language to propose the new qualification.

This is ridiculous. There’s no reason for the U.S. government to be considering whether or not to hand out a loan to a corporation over whether they’re pro-Israel or not. The government has no business handing out loans to corporations anyway, and shouldn’t care at all what a business does unless they’re violating the natural rights of life, liberty, and property. But this isn’t going to stop Senators Rob Portman, Ben Cardin, Ron Wyden, and Harry Reid from pushing this ludicrous idea. Again, from POLITICO:

Portman and Cardin worked earlier this year to add similar language discouraging boycotts of Israel to a sweeping trade package. In a letter to fellow senators last week, the pair raised alarms over new European Commission labeling requirements for Israeli-made products that they believe were imposed specifically to encourage boycotts of Israeli commerce.

“We believe that the United States should bring not only its foreign policy but also its economic institutions, relationships, and leverage to bear on this issue,” the senators wrote in a letter to Sens. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who are negotiating the transportation bill with the House. “As the official export credit agency of the U.S., the Ex-Im Bank has a clear role to play.”

It’s so nice (note sarcasm) to see the senators, specifically Portman, ignore all the cronyism and handing out of favors Ex-Im does for corporations who don’t need the money. Veronique de Rugy wrote at Reason that those who wanted to bring Ex-Im back are completely unprincipled because it shows all that’s wrong with DC.

As the saying goes, when you don’t stand for something, you stand for nothing. Indeed, the absence of a pro-free market agenda from party leaders—even if just to show people that Republicans actually stand for something other than being anti-Obama—has been glaring. The sad truth is that most Republicans either don’t really believe in free markets or are perfectly willing to jettison their beliefs if it means pleasing the special interests and other members of the big-government status quo.

She also takes to task those so-called “small government Republicans” who just go along with Democrats on issues which make government bigger and more powerful. Of course, the House voted in favor of Ex-Im late last month, just two days before making Paul Ryan Speaker of the House (who spoke on the floor against the bill before it). That being said, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wouldn’t allow the lone bill to come to the floor. He thinks the best way to get Ex-Im reauthorized is to go through the Highway Bill. From Bloomberg:

“The way to achieve Ex-Im, if it’s going to be achieved in the Senate, is in the highway bill,” McConnell told reporters Tuesday at a press conference in the U.S. Capitol hours before the House vote.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, said his party isn’t willing to wait for the highway bill to reauthorize the bank.

“The highway bill should stand or fall on its own merits,” Reid said Wednesday on the Senate floor. “‘We’re pleading with the Republicans to allow us to have a vote on this. We have Republicans who will vote with us and virtually every Democrat will vote for it.”

McConnell is allegedly against Ex-Im’s revival, even though he never complained about it before Rand Paul became senator. The fact he’s basically pushing the Ex-Im revival to be in the highway bill just shows that he probably doesn’t care at all if it gets revived or not. Some leader. Those hoping the Israeli-Palestinian language would cause the White House to reject the bill, given its icy relationship with Israel, are out of luck. Via POLITICO:

President Barack Obama has opposed inserting boycott, divestiture and sanctions language in legislation such as the trade bill. But Democratic aides doubted that the White House would block the transportation package and a renewal of the Ex-Im bank, both of which the president strongly favors, in order to make a point about the Middle East peace process.

It’d be nice if Washington just let Ex-Im die, but they aren’t going to do that. It’s too cronytastic for them to get rid of it. There’s no reason for the thing to exist, except to please lobbyists and corporations. Ex-Im needs to go away because it will save taxpayer money and allow businesses to stand on their own. It will also keep the government from being able to tell businesses, “Hey we did this for you, now do that.” All Portman and the Democrats are doing is playing politics and it’s disappointing to see it coming from a Senator who voted for a balanced budget. Alas, it’s the votes that count and Portman want to stay in Washington. Too bad he’s using this as one way to go back to his constituents and say, “Re-elect me!”