Daniel W. Drezner

In praise of the House GOP… no, really!!

I think it’s safe to say that your humble blogger has been mildly critical at times of the House GOP’s negotiating tactics, as well as some of the foreign policy musings of House majority leader Eric Cantor.  Matt Bai’s forthcoming budget story, for example, places a lot of the blame on last year’s debt deal fiasco ...

I think it's safe to say that your humble blogger has been mildly critical at times of the House GOP's negotiating tactics, as well as some of the foreign policy musings of House majority leader Eric Cantor.  Matt Bai's forthcoming budget story, for example, places a lot of the blame on last year's debt deal fiasco on House Speaker John Boehner's inability to compromise because of the ideological rigidity of his caucus.  Not surprisimngly, House Republicans can claim the lion's share of the credit for Congress' current levels of historic unpopularity.

Every once in a while, however, a story comes along in the mainstream media that provides just a smidgen of sympathy for what the House GOP is trying to accomplish.  In that sense, Jonathan Weisman's New York Times story about the relationship between business supporters and House Republicans accomplishes the seeimg impossible:  it paints a positive picture of Cantor and the House GOP:

Big business groups like the Chamber of Commerce spent millions of dollars in 2010 to elect Republican candidates running for the House. The return on investment has not always met expectations....

I think it’s safe to say that your humble blogger has been mildly critical at times of the House GOP’s negotiating tactics, as well as some of the foreign policy musings of House majority leader Eric Cantor.  Matt Bai’s forthcoming budget story, for example, places a lot of the blame on last year’s debt deal fiasco on House Speaker John Boehner’s inability to compromise because of the ideological rigidity of his caucus.  Not surprisimngly, House Republicans can claim the lion’s share of the credit for Congress’ current levels of historic unpopularity.

Every once in a while, however, a story comes along in the mainstream media that provides just a smidgen of sympathy for what the House GOP is trying to accomplish.  In that sense, Jonathan Weisman’s New York Times story about the relationship between business supporters and House Republicans accomplishes the seeimg impossible:  it paints a positive picture of Cantor and the House GOP:

Big business groups like the Chamber of Commerce spent millions of dollars in 2010 to elect Republican candidates running for the House. The return on investment has not always met expectations….

House conservatives are pressing to allow the U.S. Export-Import Bank, which has financed  exports since the Depression, to run out of lending authority within weeks. The bank faces the possibility of shutting its doors completely by the end of May, when its legal authorization expires.

And a host of routine business tax breaks — from wind energy subsidies to research and development tax credits — cannot be passed because of Republican insistence that they be paid for with spending cuts.

Business groups that worked hard to install a Republican majority in the House equated Republican control with a business-friendly environment. But the majority is first and foremost a conservative political force, and on key issues, its ideology is not always aligned with commercial interests that helped finance election victories.

Free market is not always the same as pro-business,” said Barney Keller, spokesman for the conservative political action committee Club for Growth….

To conservative groups, fresh eyes on issues have produced fresh, small-government thinking. The Export-Import Bank, for instance, wanted a new, long-term authorization with an expanded loan limit and broader authority. Instead, Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia is drafting a 13-month reauthorization that would demand the Obama administration begin international talks to phase out export-lending subsidies globally, force the bank to be more transparent in its lending practices and rein in its loan portfolio.  (emphasis added)

Props to Cantor:  his policy rider makes some sense.  National export credit agencies are throwing around hundreds of billions of dollars to facilitate trade.  At least one World Bank study suggests that export-lending subsidies misallocate credit — they tend to provide financing for firms that would have exported anyway.  There are instances when such subsidies might be useful, and, it should be oted, the OECD does some of the things that Cantor wants to see at the global level.  That said,  Cantor’s suggestion for broader international collaboration and transparency make sense.  Indeed, Cantor now has common cause with some unlikely NGO allies.   

In all seriousness, if the House GOP could communicate that bolded message better to the American people, it might have a better approval rating.  Of course, there is nothing in that message that is inconsistent with the House doing its job on matters like passing budgets and so forth.  So I expect we’ll have to wait until 2013 before another positive mention of Cantor appears in the paper of record. 

Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at Tufts University’s Fletcher School. He blogged regularly for Foreign Policy from 2009 to 2014. Twitter: @dandrezner

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