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House leader drops support for Export-Import bank

June 24, 2014

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Republican leader of the U.S. House of Representatives, faced with conservative opposition, is declining to take a position on renewing the Export-Import Bank even though he has supported it in the past.

Speaker John Boehner told reporters Tuesday that he has a different job now and needs to work with his party’s lawmakers to make sure they’re comfortable with what he called a “rather controversial subject.”

“Some people believe that we shouldn’t have it at all, others believe that we should reauthorize it with significant reforms,” Boehner said. “We’re going to work our way through it.”

The government agency provides loans to help foreign buyers purchase American-made products. Its charter expires in September, and without legislation, it would not be able to back new loans.

Business groups are pushing hard for its renewal but conservative groups are opposed, saying it amounts to the government picking winners and losers and that the private sector can fill its place.

Boehner was speaker in 2012 when the bank was last reauthorized, and he supported it then, as did nearly half of the Republicans currently in the House, according to the Chamber of Commerce.

Since then the institution has emerged as a flashpoint in the struggles between establishment Republicans and the conservative tea party wing. The newly chosen House majority leader, Kevin McCarthy, reversed his stance and came out against reauthorization in his first interview as leader over the weekend.

Complicating matters for supporters, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that the bank has suspended or removed several officials in recent months in an investigation related to allegations of kickbacks and contract improprieties.

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