House Republicans Grill Ex-Im Chairman: ‘The Bank Is Corrupt’
House Republicans aggressively challenged Export-Import Bank Chairman Fred Hochberg at a joint hearing Wednesday, accusing him of exercising poor oversight and evading questions.
Ex-Im has been under sustained attack since last summer, when a number of Republicans attempted to prevent Congress from extending its charter, saying the bank exists primarily to provide corporate welfare for large corporations.
Although the effort was not entirely successful, the bank’s opponents did manage to force a compromise limiting the extension to six months, meaning the bank will close after June 30 unless Congress reauthorizes it. (RELATED: Is the Export-Import Bank Done?)
The hearing brought together some of the bank’s fiercest critics, including House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling and Republican Rep. Jim Jordan, a subcommittee chairman from the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform; along with Ex-Im Chairman Fred Hochberg, the bank’s inspector general, and officials from the Government Accountability Office and Treasury Department.
Democrats from the two committees attempted to defend the bank, touting its role in job creation and pointing out that it returns a profit to taxpayers, but they were largely drowned out by the numerically superior and highly animated Republicans, who used the opportunity to confront Hochberg with their objections to the entity he heads. (RELATED: Exporters Worried Export-Import Bank’s Days Are Numbered)
“The Export-Import Bank is little more than a fund for corporate welfare,” Jordan stated bluntly. Those aren’t his words, though, he clarified: “those are the words of Barack Obama back when he was a member of the Senate.”
“People say things during campaigns, and they say different things when they’re in office,” Hochberg offered.
“The heart of the matter is that the bank’s very existence is anathema to free enterprise and American values,” Jordan continued, saying, “This is an easy call; the bank is corrupt, and it should not be reauthorized.”
Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters, however, countered that, “It’s clear that Congress could pass an extension of the bank’s charter today. We’re wasting time while the anti-government wing of the Republican Party waits for the clock to run out.”
The GOP members were also prepared with more-specific questions for Hochberg, grilling him on reports of corruption and favoritism on the part of bank employees, and pointing out that there are currently 31 ongoing investigations of fraud and abuse being conducted by Ex-Im’s Inspector General.
Hochberg responded confidently but carefully, and often noncommittally, prompting several GOP members to express frustration. (RELATED: Export-Import Bank Backed Two Russian Companies Hit by Sanctions)
At one point, Rep. Trey Gowdy pressed Hochberg on whether he would accede to a transcribed interview with Hensarling. When Hochberg demurred, Gowdy warned him that his refusal to cooperate could have repercussions, saying, “In life, results matter, but perceptions matter more.”
Waters interjected that Hochberg was not obligated to comply with the request, to which Gowdy observed to Hochberg, “I would also remind you that Members of Congress have a right to factor that in as they decide whether or not to reauthorize this bank.”
“It is troubling when you answer the way that you do,” Rep. Mike Meadows added. “The lack of willingness to come before oversight is troubling to me, and frankly, troubling to the American people on Main Street.” (RELATED: Small Business Becomes Pawn in Ex-Im’s Fate)
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