Since it swept into Congress during the 2010 wave elections, the Tea Party has claimed small victories in blocking President Barack Obama’s legislative priorities and extracting spending cuts through debt-ceiling ceasefires.
But if things go their way this fall, they would get their first true scalp: The Export-Import bank.
Reinvigorated by the GOP primary loss of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, the Tea Party is on the verge of claiming perhaps its biggest policy victory in Washington. Its victim would be an institution that has existed for 80 years and far beyond the Obama era — since the New Deal era of the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration.
“It would be a huge victory, not only within the context of the Obama era but in terms of efforts to unwind the New Deal,” said Dan Holler, the communications director of Heritage Action, which supports letting the bank’s charter expire at a Sept. 30 deadline.
Conservatives began moving against the Ex-Im Bank in 2012, when its reauthorization received the fewest votes since the administration of President Richard Nixon. But two recent events elevated the Tea Party’s standing in the battle — the loss of Cantor, a supporter of the bank and a key broker in a the 2012 deal to reauthorize its charter; and the promotion of Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-California), who is set to become the House Majority Leader in August.
McCarthy’s move up means Ex-Im Bank opponents will have friends in the No. 2 and No. 3 House GOP slots — both McCarthy and incoming House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-Louisiana) are opposed to reauthorizing the Ex-Im Bank’s charter.
For years, the Tea Party movement has railed against “cronyism” and “corporate welfare.” Now, the movement has found something to point to as an example.
“We had this sea change in 2012 where people saw the bank as this perfect example of everything that’s wrong with Washington,” Holler told Business Insider on Monday, referring to the 93 votes against the bank’s reauthorization back then.
“You can have big companies going to this bank, which is backed by taxpayers, and using this bank to help themselves. This isn’t the proper role of the federal government. We’re kind of on the hook here like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, if things go wrong.”
Chris Krueger, an analyst at Guggenheim Securities who has been following the Ex-Im Bank fight, said a win from the Tea Party would be their most significant win since the disastrous plunge into federal government shutdown last year — if not their biggest yet.
“They have legislative momentum again,” Krueger said in an email. “[But] you have to give them credit for sequester and holding the line on sequester.”
NOW WATCH: Briefing videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.