Poliquin a ‘likely yes’ on Export-Import Bank reauthorization

U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin is leaning toward supporting reauthorization of the stalled Export-Import Bank, his spokesman said Wednesday.

The bank, which provides taxpayer-backed loans to foreign buyers of American goods, saw its authority lapse in June. It’s been a major issue for Poliquin since September, when General Electric Co. said if it isn’t reauthorized, it would move 500 future jobs — including 80 in Bangor — overseas.

Democrats pounced on Poliquin, a Republican from Maine’s 2nd District, after that: He has been the only member of Maine’s congressional delegation not to throw full support behind the bank and has been a leading critic of it, saying its leaders need to be held accountable for cases of fraud at the bank.

In March, the New England Council said Poliquin told them he was a “lean no” on reauthorizing. But Poliquin spokesman Michael Byerly has since said that wasn’t an indication of his position.

In a Wednesday letter to Rep. Stephen Fincher of Tennessee and Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois, who have proposed legislation to revive the bank, Poliquin outlined a list of proposed amendments, saying with an “ongoing commitment to work together for change, I will be in a position to support the reauthorization of a more effective and accountable Export-Import Bank.”

Later in the day, Byerly said that Poliquin “is a likely yes vote” on reauthorization, “but he’s still pushing for reforms.”

It has become an issue in Poliquin’s 2016 re-election campaign. Democratic candidates Emily Cain and Joe Baldacci are running for their party’s nomination, and both support bank reauthorization. The Bangor City Council, of which Baldacci is a member, has asked Maine’s congressional delegation to vote to reauthorize the bank.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, House Democrats’ campaign arm, issued radio ads against Poliquin on the issue in August and they have hammered him since the GE announcement.

“Now that he’s facing scrutiny from Mainers and his own job is on the line, Poliquin is waffling,” said DCCC spokesman Bryan Lesswing in a Wednesday statement. “As Poliquin continues to recklessly play politics with Mainers’ jobs, voters will see through his attempts to paper over his record.”

Of Poliquin’s four proposed amendments, the most radical could be Poliquin’s call to fire bank Chairman Fred Hochberg, who he criticized in a June hearing, but he also proposes adding nonpartisan business professionals to the bank’s board, changing the bank’s accounting method and requiring build-up of bank reserves to protect taxpayers from risk.

In a Wednesday statement, Bangor City Councilor Pauline Civiello thanked Poliquin for “being responsive” to the council’s concerns and “indicating his likely support to reauthorize” the bank.

“The jobs provided by General Electric here in Bangor are valued and Congressman Poliquin’s support is much appreciated,” Civiello said.

Michael Shepherd

About Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after covering state, federal and local issues for the Kennebec Journal for three years. He's a Hallowell native who now lives in Gardiner. He graduated from the University of Maine in 2012 and is a graduate student at the University of Southern Maine's Muskie School of Public Service.