As Congress returns for a blink-and-you'll-miss-it session before the November elections, Republican leaders don't want any trouble.
They just want to make sure the government doesn't shut down at the end of the month, temporarily reauthorize a little-known federal lending agency, and get the heck out of town.
As usual, conservatives are not on board.
Two of the most vocal advocacy advocacy groups on the right, Club for Growth and Heritage Action, welcomed House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) back to Washington on Monday with a letter warning him not to attach an extension of the Export-Import Bank to legislation funding the government through mid-December.
The 80-year-old bank, which helps U.S. businesses reach markets overseas, has become a flash point in the battle between establishment Republicans and the Tea Party. The bank is key to big companies like Boeing and a top priority of the Chamber of Commerce, but conservatives say it's a prime example of crony capitalism.
Congressional Republicans are plainly divided on the export bank, known inside the Beltway as "Ex-Im," but with the election near, party leaders want to save the debate for another day.
The issue is a tricky one for McCarthy, who just took over as majority leader for the defeated Eric Cantor in late July. In running to replace Cantor, McCarthy came out in opposition to the bank, but now lawmakers expect that he'll attach a amendment reauthorizing Ex-Im to the stopgap spending bill that leaders want to rush through the House this week.
In their letter, the conservative groups acknowledge that the Average Joe voter doesn't really care about the export bank.
The Export-Import Bank is a small thing, this we know. But Leader McCarthy, if you can’t start with the Export-Import Bank, then how can Americans trust the Republican Party to tackle the big challenges our nation faces after six years of President Obama and his failed policies?"
Complicating matters even further for McCarthy is the palace intrigue that surrounds the bank debate. The man leading the charge against Ex-Im is Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Tex.), chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, who passed on challenging McCarthy for Cantor's job in June but could try to take him out after the November elections.
Heritage and Club for Growth offered a sly reminder of this to McCarthy on Monday:
We hope you’ll take the coming weeks to stay true to your comments from June and affirmatively fight to end the Export-Import Bank. House Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling has done great work exposing the bank, but he needs Leadership not just backing him up, but leading."
Here's the full letter: