Congressman Jeb Hensarling is chair of the Financial Services Committee, and was the first guest of the new Johnny Cleveland era of the Hugh Hewitt Show. We talked a little football, a lot of Ex-Im Bank, and then whether or not he’d be running for Speaker after the ’14 elections:
HH: Morning glory, evening grace, and Johnny Football, America. Welcome back, it’s Hugh Hewitt. Now that Johnny Football has come to Cleveland, we can always open that way. Joining me to begin today’s show is a Texan who’s got to be disappointed that the Cowboys did not take Johnny Manziel in the draft this past weekend. Congressman Jeb Hensarling is chairman of the House Financial Services Committee. Congressman, it’s a little off topic, but I’m sure you’re still weeping gently that Johnny Football isn’t coming back to Texas.
JH: Well, Hugh, I’m glad you have your priorities straight, and it’s football. It would have been nice to have seen Johnny Manziel in Dallas. It would have been a whole lot easier to watch him. But I think he’s going to have a great and storied future with the Browns, not a team that I’ve spent a whole lot of time following. But as a faithful Texas Aggie, I think I’m going to pay a little bit more attention to them now.
HH: Well, we sold two thousand, I’m a season ticket holder to the Browns, and have been since 1999 when they came back. And it’s been a long, dry spell, Congressman. And so hopefully, you’ll become a brown and orange wearer as well. And I think the GOP convention should go to Cleveland in 2016 as a result of this, don’t you?
JH: I’m still a little partial to Dallas on that one, as Joe would say, Hugh.
HH: But they didn’t make the final list, did they?
JH: You know what? I’m not one of the decision makers, so if they’re out of it, I don’t know it.
HH: Okay, you are a decision maker on Ex-Im Bank, the Export-Import Bank. And as chairman of Financial Services, you’re kind of waging jihad on us. Tell us, I’m a big supporter of the bank.
JH: I heard that about you.
HH: And I have been for a long time, because they help out our Defense infrastructure, people like Boeing and like the National Association of Manufacturers, small and medium-sized manufacturers. I support it. Give your case, though. I want to give you a shot, a fair shot, at why you don’t like them.
JH: Well, number one, I wouldn’t quite characterize it as a jihad. I would just simply say that we probably shouldn’t reauthorize the bank to do more business and let them work off their current book. Why do I believe that? One, Hugh, my guess is not one in a thousand have heard of the Export-Import Bank, but if you would tell American citizens, or ask them the question should we use their taxpayer funds to loan money to the likes of China and Russia, many of them would say no. If you say loan money to wealthy countries like the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, the answer’s probably no. People would say is that fair? Is that wise? Now some would say well, yeah, but ultimately, that benefits U.S. exporters. Well, you hear that from the Ex-Im Bank that we create jobs. Maybe they do, but then again, maybe they don’t. You probably heard that for every job that Boeing says that they are able to leverage off the Export-Import Bank, I can assure you Delta says they’re losing a job. They say that the Export-Import Bank, Delta, that the Export-Import Banks is subsidizing their competitors to the tune of about $15 million dollars an airplane. And that’s costing our domestic, our domestic airline industry about 7,500 jobs. A big energy oil refinery company in Texas, Valero Energy out of San Antonio, says Export-Import Bank cost them jobs when they loaned a bunch of money to a Turkish oil refinery, and kind of the list goes on. So it’s not such a convincing argument that they’re necessarily creating jobs. They say that they make the taxpayers money. Well, if you use true value accounting as opposed to kind of the funny government accounting, Hugh, that’s not necessarily so. And even if they did, you know, Fannie and Freddie made money until they didn’t. The federal flood insurance program made money until it didn’t. Social Security made money until it didn’t. So I don’t have a lot of faith in government-run banks, and insurance companies, and this is yet another one of those.
HH: But now Mr. Chairman, I understand, and I am not a fan of the institutions that fail, are too big to fail, et cetera, but I’m looking at the March 19th letter to you and ranking member Maxine Waters from the National Association of Manufacturers. It’s signed by the American Chemistry Council, the Aerospace Industries Association, the Business Roundtable, the National Small Business Association, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, General Aviation Manufacturers Association. These are not the too big to fail lobby. It’s not Goldman Sachs. And a lot of the, I’m aware of Delta’s complaint, and Delta’s complaint has got its own, we could talk about that forever and about the lawsuit, but I don’t want to get too deep in the weeds. I do know that Ex-Im does make money, and it supports our Defense infrastructure. I’m primarily a hawk, and I’m primarily a guy that wants our Defense manufacturing sector to be as strong and robust as possible, and Ex-Im helps them.
JH: Well, anytime you get a subsidy or a credit guarantee, I guess you can argue that somebody’s being helped. But I would also argue that probably somebody else is being hurt, and that includes taxpayers at a time when I think we would both agree our nation has an unsustainable debt, I would also offer an immoral debt. But again, you know, you named all the groups that support this. I’m not sure who’s going to turn a subsidy down. And to some extent, Hugh, it’s the difference between being pro-business and pro-free enterprise. I would argue that one of the great challenges our nation faces both culturally and financially is the growing evolution into a European style social welfare state.
HH: Well, you and I, we’re not going to disagree about that. But Alexander Hamilton…
JH: Well, hear me out on this one point, though. I don’t know how we will ever have the moral authority to deal with the social welfare state if frankly we don’t deal with the corporate welfare state.
HH: But again, apples and oranges. The Defense industry that is the first, number one job of the federal government, is to defend the country, requires a subsidy occasionally, and it requires mostly credit. This isn’t even subsidy since it made a billion dollars last year. And I know is your answer is they make money until they don’t make money. But no one really seriously argues Ex-Im is going to lose money on the export business.
JH: Well, they’ve already lost money before. I mean, they’ve had to be bailed out. They were bailed out in the 80s. They lose money on individual loans.
HH: Oh, they do that.
JH: They lost almost three quarters of a billion dollars…
HH: They do that, but as a…
JH: …on a loan to the Republic of Congo.
HH: but as a matter of long-standing record, they’re a pretty good bet, and they get reauthorized fairly routinely by the Senate.
JH: And so were Fannie and Freddie for a generation.
HH: Well now, again, but that’s not fair, because I’m not going to, you know, lump everybody too big to fail. And they’re not that kind of a problem. So my question, though, goes back. Is there anything they can do to satisfy Jeb Hensarling to turn him around on this? Or is it something, because I see it dividing the Republican caucus on the Defense basis. I see the hawks supporting it…
JH: But Hugh, I would say this. If we don’t think that Boeing or some of these other Defense contractors can make it on their own, which one, I think is a somewhat dubious claim, but you know, I’m open to the evidence. I have an open mind. It’s not an empty mind. But if somebody can make the case that these are subsidies that are critical to national defense, then let that case be made in open, public forum. And if necessary, then let’s put it into the Defense budget, then, where it belongs, as opposed to, again, harming some domestic American industries, and picking winners and losers. This is just one aspect of it, Hugh. I mean, we haven’t even talked about the cronyism that goes forth here.
HH: I’m focused on the Defense side.
JH: …in corporate welfare, and these are people who loan money to Solyndra…
HH: That’s all I…
JH: They loan money to Enron.
HH: Yeah, all I’m caring about is the Defense industry, and I think at a time when the Congress, because of sequestration and others have badly damaged our national defense footing, now is not the time to kick out another prop. But while I’ve got you, I’ve got to ask you one other story. Speaker Boehner announced today that he’s standing for reelection as Speaker, and he expects to win. Were you surprised by that announcement?
JH: Well, no, I wasn’t surprised. I’m not sure who announces that they’re going to be leaving Congress. Listen, that’s what the Speaker says. I have no reason to doubt him. I’ve got to tell you, I know the press. There are lots of people who like to talk and write about Republican leadership races post-November. I don’t find it an exercise all that useful. We’ve got big, important business to do between now and November, an important election to win with the American people in November.
HH: We ask only because it interests people, and I am not a big Speaker Boehner fan. People know that. Would you rule out running against him if he stood for reelection as Speaker?
JH: Well, I’ll just give the same answer I just gave. And listen, if I could look you in the eye, I would tell you I’m spending somewhere between zero and a negative real number at the moment thinking about leadership races.
HH: But that’s not a no.
JH: You can ask me in November, Hugh, and I’d be glad to tell you what’s on my mind after the November election.
HH: But that’s not a no.
JH: Well, if you’re asking me to be Shermanesque, you know, I’m not sure they would ever invite me to play drums with Led Zeppelin, but you know, I’m not going to say no, just in case the invitation comes.
HH: Well, I’m pretty sure a lot of people ask you to run for Speaker, though, and I have been asked to play drums for Led Zeppelin, so I can say with certainty that stranger things have happened. I know some people are going to ask you to run for Speaker, and I’m going to applaud them, except on the Ex-Im Bank. Are you going to rule that out, though?
JH: Again, I’m going to wait until after November and decide what is it I can do to help advance the cause of freedom and free enterprise the best. And I’ll look around and see what I can do. But right now, we’ve got important business about getting America back to work, ending the bailout mentality, and having conservatives win an election in November.
HH: Now that is…
JH: How’s that for an appropriate dodge of your question?
HH: That’s not a dodge. That’s not a no. I made some news. But I also have got to get you to commit to supporting the RNC in Cleveland. Can we at least get a clear yes on that if Dallas is out of the running?
JH: All I’ll say is I know Cleveland Rocks.
HH: There you go. Jeb Hensarling, thank you. I’ll be right back, America, on the Hugh Hewitt Show.
End of interview.