In the flurry of intra-Republican Party warfare last week, there was one clearly positive development. That was the decision by 40-plus House Republicans to break away from the Tea Partiers and “Freedom Caucus” members now blowing up the GOP, and instead join Democrats in backing a “discharge petition” that will force an up-or-down vote on reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank.
From the beginning of this standoff, all sides have understood that ExIm has strong majority support in the House, and probably greater than two-thirds support in the Senate. This is in keeping with its status as a mainstay element of U.S. foreign-economic policy from the FDR era onward, until the recent wave of intense minority opposition from libertarian purists and Tea Party anti-government groups. The goal for these opponents has been to keep its re-authorization from ever coming up for a vote (which they knew supporters would win). This, in turn, is why supporters finally resorted to the “discharge petition.”
Bi-partisan agreement on anything is novel enough these days that the discharge effect deserves mention on its own. In this case, the move also represents a small but significant step against anti-governance nihilism, in two ways.
Procedurally, it represents a triumph over the hostage-taking strategy that has become the Congressional right wing’s m.o. (Hostage taking as in, “Give us everything we want on our most polarizing issues, or we’ll refuse to pass a budget / honor the national debt / let the government operate / cooperate at all.”) And on the substance, it is a rebuff to the theory-driven, reality-blind ideological purism that conservatives used to mock liberals for. For an example, read on.