The Export-Import Bank, a small agency housed in this Washington building, helps numerous companies.
The Export-Import Bank, a small agency housed in this Washington building, helps numerous companies. - 
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The Export-Import Bank is old. Founded in 1934, during the depression under FDR, the bank for decades has quietly done its thing, helping overseas customers of some U.S. companies pay for U.S. goods.

"It's a small agency that mostly operates out of the spotlight and doesn't cost the government any money," said Edward Alden with the Council on Foreign Relations.

Then came the election of President Obama and the rise of the Tea Party in the 2010 mid-terms.

"A lot of Republicans, especially conservatives, saw the Export-Import Bank as an opportunity to rebrand the Republican party as a small government, anti-cronyism, anti-corporate welfare party," said Dan Holler, with Heritage Action, which has vigorously pushed Republican lawmakers to oppose the Ex-Im Bank.

"The reason Ex-Im has been targeted is because shutting it down is an attainable goal for proponents of small government," said Loren Thompson, CEO of the Lexington Institute, a policy thinktank."Nobody's going to be able to shut down EPA or the Department of Education, but this is a 400-person agency, so shutting it down looks doable."

This week, though, a majority of Republicans rebelled against Tea Party members and their own leadership to revive the bank. Turns out Ex-Im may be small, but the companies it helps are numerous, and some are very big. "And that's why you see the effects of this across a lot more districts than I think Republicans recognized when they picked this fight," said the Council on Foreign Relations' Alden.

So, not as doable after all.

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