By Tory Newmyer
July 25, 2015

Saturday Morning Post: The Weekly View from Washington

Tomorrow, the Senate will convene in a rare weekend session to extend highway funding that would otherwise run out at the end of the month. Propping up that infrastructure spending is a key priority for big business groups. But the corporate lobby has another reason to tune in Sunday: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican, has set up the measure to carry another item on their wish-list, the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank. The agency exists to provide credit financing for American exporters like Boeing, Caterpillar, and General Electric, and it’s enjoyed bipartisan support throughout its 80-year history. Or it did, until the Tea Party types elevated it into a poster child for “crony capitalism” and forced the expiration of its charter earlier this summer, freezing its ability to guarantee new loans.

In the scheme of things, Ex-Im is not a huge deal. And for small-government crusaders, that was precisely the point. After the movement’s efforts to take down major targets like the Affordable Care Act backfired spectacularly, they settled on the bank as a prize within their grasp. That they managed to seize it only to see it slipping back through their fingers weeks later is surely frustrating. It does not, however, entirely explain the Friday outburst by Sen. Ted Cruz, who’s styled himself a lonely warrior against the “Washington cartel” as he seeks traction for a lagging presidential bid. On the Senate floor, the junior Texan laced into McConnell for engineering Ex-Im’s revival, accusing his leader of telling him a “flat-out lie” in earlier pledging there would be no deal to bring the agency’s charter back up for a vote. The charge amounted to a stunning breach of Senate decorum — and possibly its rules.

But Cruz’s Senate-floor roar shrinks to a mousey peep considered against the intramural vitriol consuming the GOP presidential contest. For that, Republicans can thank Donald Trump, whose candidacy so far has consisted in the main of cartoonishly wild attacks on his competition. Trump will not be the Republican nominee. The extent to which his bid shapes the race will be measured in the lengths more viable anti-establishment candidates go to ape the primal scream that, for now, has him leading the pack.

Tory Newmyer
@torynewmyer
tory_newmyer@fortune.com

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