We already have the Ex-Im bank, which ostensibly subsidizes foreign countries – often unfriendly ones – to purchase products sold by specific domestic companies. But even as conservatives seek to abolish it, the House is sneaking through reauthorization of its sister agency - Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) – under suspension. OPIC is in some sense the rear-view image of Ex-Im in that it subsidizes domestic companies to invest in foreign countries.
Once again, they are using a shell bill and the suspension calendar to pass an unpopular program. The “Electrify Africa Act of 2014,” which is part of a general foreign aid package to Africa and enjoys broad support, is being used to ensconce a three-year reauthorization of OPIC. It is not enough that the government engages in venture socialism to pick winners and losers domestically; this program subsidizes corporate interests overseas. The Washington Examiner’s Tim Carney has a great roundup on OPIC:
If you’ve ever visited Istanbul and stayed at the Ritz-Carlton, however, you’ve enjoyed the benefits of OPIC.
“This luxury hotel, set in the heart of the city and overlooking the Bosphorus, beautifully blends modern sophistication with historic Ottoman touches, found everywhere from the spa's traditional hammam to the exceptional accommodations,” the hotel's website reads. “[T]he graceful lobby is adorned in Turkish carpets, antique furniture and an oversized oil painting from contemporary artist Timur Kerim Incedayi.”
OPIC extended $50 million in financing in 2000 to subsidize the hotel.
More recent OPIC projects include $250 million in taxpayer-backed financing for Sun Edison to install a solar farm in South Africa, and $150 million in OPIC insurance for Citibank to open branches in Pakistan, Jordan and Egypt.
Citibank is America’s third-largest bank, with total assets of $1.8 trillion, yet it can’t line up insurance without taxpayer backing?
It has become a regular occurrence for GOP leaders to use the suspension calendar, which is designed for “non-controversial votes,” to stealthily pass big government legislation. Ironically, as part of the GOP Pledge to America in 2010, Republicans pledged to tamp down suspension votes in Congress (page 34):
The number of House legislative days devoted to action on noncontroversial and often insignificant “suspension” bills is up significantly in this Congress by comparison with the past several Congresses, wasting time and taxpayer resources. Of the bills considered under the suspension procedure – requiring 2/3 vote for passage – so far during this Congress,
more than half were bills naming federal buildings, recognizing individuals or groups (like sports teams) for achievements, or supporting the designation of particular days, months, or weeks.
Well, in some ways it’s better to use the suspension calendar for “insignificant” bills rather than use it to sneak through bad bills. They already passed the feminist museum bill through suspension today.
Welcome to the world of the GOP establishment – one which includes corporate welfare, amnesty, debt, and “fixing” Obamacare. This is only the beginning. And if we continue to let them lie their way through primaries, they won’t need to use the suspension calendar to pass bad bills anymore.