Count Ohio Gov. John Kasich among the GOP presidential contenders lining up to call for elimination of the Export-Import Bank, a small agency created to help U.S. companies sell products abroad.
He’s also stepping away from at least two votes he made as a U.S. House member to reauthorize the 81-year-old agency.
Both in 1992 and 1997, Kasich joined more than 300 colleagues to vote overwhelmingly to reauthorize the bank. The House had previously reauthorized the bank in 1983 and 1986, both times by voice vote.
The Export-Import Bank also was left off a list of 12 federal programs that Kasich and a coalition of interest groups sought to eliminate in 1997. That effort was a part of a larger attempt at what Kasich called “corporate welfare reform.”
Even then, the bank was targeted by critics who said it focused too heavily on helping big corporations and not enough on small ones. Still, Kasich months later joined 377 House colleagues once again in voting to reauthorize the bank.
So, why the change of heart now?
“If a bank doesn’t want to make a loan to a big company, I’m not so sure that the lady who cleaned my room today should,” Kasich said as he campaigned Wednesday in South Carolina. Asked about his past support, Kasich acknowledged, “maybe I did” vote for the bank while in Congress.
“I was involved significantly in corporate welfare reform,” he said. “I can’t tell you why we missed the EXIM bank. Being governor, too, I’m not really big on subsidies. Now, there’s no hard and fast rule on that, but I’m not even going to have a vote on that. It’s going to be decided here in Congress.”
One of the leading voices in opposition to the agency is Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Urbana, who calls it a “slush fund” for politically connected businesses. Supporters, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, say the agency provides a necessary assist to companies entering foreign markets. Between 2007 and 2014, 258 Ohio businesses benefited from the program.
Kasich said he hasn’t thought much about the bank until he began reading about it “in the last several weeks.”
“If I were to say, ‘do I think it should continue,’ I would say no,” he said.
Scott Milburn, a Kasich spokesman, said times have changed since Kasich’s votes to reauthorize the program.
“The governor was skeptical of the bank as Budget chairman, and sought to tighten the rules for it back then, but when these recent problems are combined with the huge debt we face, supporting it becomes a much bigger lift today than it was in years past, especially for someone who’s traditionally opposed to corporate welfare to begin with,” Milburn said.
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