Tennessee Representative Stephen Fincher joined me to lay out the conservative case for re-authorizing the Export-Import Bank. At a time of incredible national security challenges it is simply nuts to unilaterally disarm in an area of intense interest to the People’s Republic of China, and hurting thousands of small American businesses in the course of doing so and endangering more than 150,000 American manufacturing jobs:
HH: I am pleased to welcome now to the Hugh Hewitt Show Representative Stephen Fincher from Tennessee. Representative Fincher, welcome, it’s great to have you on.
SF: Thank you, Hugh, appreciate you taking time for us.
HH: Now I understand you are from one of the more unusually named cities in Tennessee. What is the name of that city?
SF: I am, Hugh. I am from a little place in the western part of the state called Frog Jump.
HH: I just love that. So I am always going to have you on as the Congressman from Frog Jump. But I actually wanted to have you on because you’re also the Congressman who’s trying to bring some sanity to this debate over the Export-Import Bank by reforming and reauthorizing as opposed to killing it. Can you explain to us what you’re doing?
SF: Absolutely, Hugh. You know, the answer to our problems, I think one key answer to our problems in this country is connected to jobs, jobs, jobs. If we’re going to be able to succeed as a country and get out of the hole that we’re in, it’s all about people working and job creation. The Export-Import Bank is a great investment that provides jobs for thousands of people all over our districts. It makes us very competitive globally by allowing people from all over the world to buy U.S. products. It is an investment that returns money to the Treasury every year, Hugh, $674 million dollars last year, over $5 billion dollars in the last 20 years. And so what we’re doing is we said what do our folks at home, the people that elect us, want us to do in Washington? They want us to make the government smaller, more accountable, more transparent. But Hugh, they don’t send us up here to shut the world down. They send us up here to make it work for them. And this is an investment out of all of the things that people find wrong with Washington in government, this is one that with reforms actually helps folks all over this country. And what we’re doing is we have 31 common sense reforms. We allow the bank to, you know, earnings retention is part of this, audits, gap accounting, we’re strengthening the charter, making statutory changes. So we just think this is common sense. But we must have reforms, and I think we’re probably doing more in the way of reforms, Hugh, than has been done since President Reagan did many, many years ago.
HH: Now there are 58 co-sponsors on your bill to reauthorize and reform Ex-Im. I want to talk to you specifically about the fact, and I don’t think Americans know this, the China Ex-Im Bank and the China Development Bank together signed loans of at least $110 billion dollars to other developing country governments in ’09 and ’10. And they’re getting bigger and better at this. This is not a level playing field, and if we get out of this business, we are in essence ceding all of these opportunities to the People’s Republic of China.
SF: Absolutely. Russia, China, roughly 60 countries have these export credit agencies. And what we’re doing, and I, you know, Hugh, I get in a perfect world, in a perfect situation, things like the Export-Import Bank would not be needed. But the world is not perfect. This is not a fair playing field. And what we’re doing is we’re giving American workers and American companies a chance to be able to sell, look, you put us up against anybody in the world, and we can outperform them. But we need a chance. This is a lender of last resort. You know, people can try to get loans in other places, and this is where they come to last. But Hugh, the bottom line is here, this makes money for the government. This is actually something that has never cost the taxpayer anything. So this is what we think is just something that again, we work for our constituents back in our districts, and they don’t send us up here to just shut the world down.
HH: Now yesterday, I had on one of my law partners, Dan Renberg, and I want to make it clear to the audience we don’t represent Ex-Im. We are not lobbying on behalf of Ex-Im. But Dan was a member of the board for four years. I followed this issue closely for years. It’s a soft power deal for me. It’s also 165,000 manufacturing jobs, a lot of which are in Ohio, where turbine engines are made in Cincinnati. And I know they’re really great jobs, and lenders of last resorts are necessary. It was never controversial, and I’ve debated your colleague and friend, Jeb Hensarling, about this, but I am curious what you think the politics are right now, Congressman Fincher. I sense that the votes are there to pass reform and reauthorization if a clean vote is allowed.
SF: I would agree with that, Hugh. There’s strong support in the Republican conference. Our colleagues on the other side of the aisle seem to want just a clean reauthorization, but we need reforms to make this thing work and be accountable. But the votes are there. We’re just trying to work through the process. I get the debate. I understand the arguments on both sides. But Hugh, you know, you talked about jobs. This is about, and some of our opponents, and even my chairman has made this argument. You know, this is the bank of Boeing, this is the bank of G.E. and other big companies and manufacturers. Well, number one, Hugh, this Boeing, I have no Boeing jobs in my district. I have no G.E. jobs in my district. This is about small companies all over this country that create jobs in my district and other districts. And you know, why should we be number one against big business, but number two, this is not about big business. This is about all the small guys that are making these parts for all of these companies. And we should be for growth. And Hugh, if we’re ever going to get out of this mess as a country, we’ve got to have people working.
HH: Yeah, one of the people I’m going to bring on to talk about this is Nikki Haley, because Boeing built that plant down in Charleston. It’s a $60 billion dollar job generator in South Carolina, and I cover all of South Carolina. I’ve got four stations in South Carolina. I’ve got a couple in Tennessee. And those folks love those jobs, and it’s not just Boeing jobs. It’s all the suppliers. It’s all the restaurants that serve the people that work there. I honestly, I do not understand, I would understand if it was a Solyndra crony capitalism deal, but it’s not. These are underwritten loans, insurance policies and credits. But I am afraid it’s become kind of a flag of honor that perhaps some of our friends in the Tea Party misunderstand that if you just kill off a few agencies, it doesn’t matter if you kill off a good one or a bad one. And it does matter.
SF: It does matter, and I understand if we’re going to pick a fight, let’s pick one over an issue that we’re all united on, Hugh, that does not directly correlate with people having a job, and directly correlate with China and Russia and all of our, a lot of our enemies that are going to hand it to us when it comes to job creation all over the world. We at this point in time in our nation’s tough times that we’re in, we don’t need to do anything to make us, put us at a less advantage when it comes to job creation.
HH: Now what I’m also glad to know is I went through your record, and you’re a third-term Congressman from Tennessee. You’re a young guy. You’re 40 years old or 41. You’re going to be there a long time. But you’re a conservative’s conservative. You are strong on all of our issues. No one can say Steve Fincher is a moderate or a big government Republican or an establishment type. Are there more serious conservative flocking to the banner of reform and reauthorize?
SF: Absolutely, Hugh. When you sit down and explain to people, get past the talking points, get past the attacks, and say look, we are here to make the government, as I said a few minutes ago, smaller, more transparent, more accountable, but our constituents for the most part, Hugh, don’t send us up here and say we want you to shut everything down. They want us to make it better for them and make it work better. And this is again, a common sense approach, but there are people here in Washington, a great number of them, I think we’ve got way over 100 votes on the Republican side of the aisle to help get this thing passed. So I’m confident that at the end of the day, we can have the debate. But even my chairman, I’m confident that at the end of the day, we will be able to do this and make it work for the American people.
HH: That’s what I just wanted to make sure, is that there will be a vote, there will be a debate, and people will have a chance to make an argument. I just don’t want it killed in committee, because I actually think Republicans are nuts if they let this happen.
SF: Well, we’re going to make sure that it does not get killed in committee, and we don’t hand the keys to China and Russia, that’s for sure.
HH: Steve Fincher, come back early and often, Congressman, great to make your acquaintance. I look forward to meeting you in person sometime soon.
End of interview.