Congressman finds bucking trend can be problematic

A Washington lobbyist was speaking at one of the national association meetings we often find ourselves covering and was relating a story about some clients who scheduled a meeting with their newly-elected congressman.

The clients described an issue that was confronting their industry and were asking their new representative for help when he stopped them in mid-sentence. “I didn’t come to Washington to fix problems,” he said. “I came up here to gut the government.”

It’s become fashionable in some circles to speak about the government only with disdain, referring to officials as incompetents, crooks or leeches. Such comments not only are a disservice to men and women who have devoted their lives to public service, but they mask real issues.

In the last few days, Rep. Stephen Fincher, R-Tenn., has felt some of that wrath. Fincher, a farmer from Crockett County, is leading the effort to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank. (In the interest of full disclosure, Congressman Fincher represents the area where I live in Memphis.)

The Ex-Im Bank, for short, makes loans or loan guarantees or insures companies that sell in the export market. Somehow the bank’s services have become confused in the minds of some critics as “corporate welfare,” and the latter want its charter to expire on June 30.

As Fincher has noted, other countries’ governments provide such services to their exporters. “This is all about jobs,” he said. “It’s all about America being competitive with the rest of the world. If our economy is going to get up and running again, we’ve got to do everything possible to keep people working. That’s what the Ex-Im Bank does.”

Fincher concedes the bank’s operations have not been without problems. Three years ago he pointed out reforms that were needed. The legislation he now supports includes those, and it also faces an uphill battle in the House Financial Services Committee, whose chairman, Jeb Hensarling of Texas, opposes reauthorization.

That’s a gutsy move for a second-term congressman in a system in which committee chairs wield a tremendous power. The move has also brought Fincher attention he probably didn’t want.

In the last few weeks, the Club for Growth, a conservative advocacy group which routinely backs candidates who share the sentiments of the congressman mentioned at the beginning of this piece, reportedly paid $114,000 for TV ads lambasting Fincher for supporting reauthorization.

Fincher shrugged off the ads. “It’s so easy for members of Congress to vote no on everything and go back to their districts and blame everybody else for it,” he said. “That’s an easy way out. This is about what’s good for the 8th District and good for Tennessee.”

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