In a startling display of internal strife, Sen. Ted Cruz (R) of Texas called Sen. Mitch McConnell (R) of Kentucky a liar on the floor of the Senate Friday.
The motivating factor behind this sudden attack on the leader of his own party: the fate of an obscure government agency known as the Export-Import Bank.
Senator Cruz claimed that Senator McConnell had given assurances that no vote would be held to potentially renew the federal agency, which expired on June 30 and has become the object of ire of many GOP politicians. Nevertheless, McConnell has arranged for a vote on the future of the bank to go ahead over the next few days.
"It saddens me to say this. I sat in my office, I told my staff the majority leader looked me in the eye and looked 54 Republicans in the eye. I cannot believe he would tell a flat-out lie, and I voted based on those assurances that he made to each and every one of us," Cruz said.
"We keep winning elections and then we keep getting leaders who don't do anything they promised," he added.
So what is the Export-Import Bank and why do Republicans hate it so much?
The "Ex-Im" as insiders call it, was created by Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1934 in order to close financing gaps in large sales of US goods to buyers overseas when private lenders are unable or unwilling to take on the financial risk. Essentially, the bank subsidizes foreign purchasers of US goods.
Republicans look at the agency as a symbol of “crony capitalism” and the ties between big government and big business, while Democrats say that it’s necessary if American companies are going to remain competitive abroad and continue to export their wares. Furthermore, most countries have their own version of the Ex-Im, so scrapping America’s agency would put US companies at an unfair disadvantage, supporters say. Still, the argument is emblematic of some of the wider splits in government.
“The fact that Republican lawmakers have launched a full-scale attack against the bank is indicative of a larger argument in Washington, the outcome of which could determine how involved the government gets in the economy, and ultimately, how the US labor market fares in the future. In the end, it’s all about jobs,” The Christian Science Monitor reported, shortly after the agency’s mandate expired.
“Some experts have pointed out that opposition to the bank provides an opportunity for Republicans to demonstrate that they are defending the free market, not just the interests of big business.”
Although some Republicans, including Cruz, called for the bank to be immediately liquidated, supporters, including President Obama, argued that it’s too important for the economy not to be renewed.
“We will lose business and we will lose jobs if we don't pass it," Mr. Obama said.
Now, it remains to be seen whether the government will succeed in voting the Ex-Im back into business.
This report includes material from the Associated Press.