House Democrats push for Ex-Im Bank
House Democrats will launch a campaign Tuesday to re-authorize the Export-Import Bank even as incoming Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy is discounting the measure’s chance of success. Authorization for the bank, which provides federal loans intended to boost U.S. exports, expires at the end of September. But Republicans aren’t rushing to re-up the charter, saying the bank is ill equipped to carry out its duties. If Congress fails to extend the charter, it will be the first time in 80 years that the bank, which provides loans and loan guarantees to giant corporations and small businesses, would cease to exist. Democrats say that would put American businesses at a competitive risk.
“Congress must take bipartisan action before the Export-Import Bank’s authorization expires so that we can give certainty to businesses and provide important resources to keep American exporters competitive. To do otherwise would greatly hurt our businesses and our economy,” said Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) Rep. Denny Heck (D-Wash.) will introduce legislation on Tuesday that would extend Export-Import Bank’s authorization for seven years and give the bank $175 billion to spend to help companies like Boeing, Caterpillar and GE export products. The money also helps small businesses find a place in the global market.
“The Export-Import Bank is a reliable way for American business—including many small businesses—to sell their goods and services into the world marketplace,” Heck said. “If we abandon this resource, we are allowing China, Russia, and European countries to gain ground in export deals previously made with us.” The legislation is supported by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers - two lobbying behemoths that hold sway among Republicans. The groups were among the organizations who recently sent a letter to the Hill arguing that the bank helps companies compete in “fiercely competitive global markets.”
But the Depression-era bank will run up against Republicans, who are deeply divided on the issue.
McCarthy, who was elected as majority leader just last week, said the government shouldn’t be involved in the bank. “I think Ex-Im Bank is … something government does not have to be involved in. The private sector can do it,” McCarthy said in an interview on Fox News Sunday this weekend. “One of the biggest problems with government is they go and take hard-earned money so others do things that the private sector can do. That’s what the Ex-Im Bank does.” McCarthy voted for the bank’s authorization in 2012.
Other top House Republicans don’t appear to feel any urgency to renew the bank. GOP leaders are watching Rep. Jeb Hensarling’s (R-Texas) Financial Services Committee to see what - if anything - it produces. They’re also eyeing the level of organic support for renewing the program. “Boehner has been clear that this is an issue that Members, particularly on the Financial Services Committee, need to discuss - and that is happening,” said Michael Steel, Boehner’s spokesman. Hensarling is one of the House’s most outspoken critics against re-upping the bank’s mandate. He’s compared it to “crony capitalism” and a handout for big business.
Re-authorizing the bank historically isn’t a heavy lift. In 2012, 330 House members approved the charter - an effort led by Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who lost his primary bid earlier this month. In 2006, it was so noncontroversial that it passed in the House by unanimous consent.
But the Republican caucus has grown more conservative since then. Still, some Republicans are backing the bank. A group of 41 House Republicans wrote to Speaker Boehner and McCarthy on Monday expressing support for the bank.
“Failure to reauthorize Ex-Im would amount to unilateral disarmament in the face of other nations’ aggressive efforts to help their exporters,” the Republican lawmakers wrote. “Given our nation’s fragile economic recovery, we must continue to promote U.S. exports and create American jobs and not disadvantage U.S. manufacturers in a competitive global marketplace. This is a program that generates not only exports and jobs, but also much needed revenue for the federal government.”
The letter was spearheaded by Reps. Charles Boustany of Louisiana and Chris Collins of New York.
Despite the low chances of moving in the Republican-controlled House, Democrats will continue to push for authorization over the summer. Their message will focus on the jobs supported by the bank - a popular political message ahead of the 2014 midterm elections.
“The Export-Import Bank supports hundreds of thousands of jobs and levels the playing field so that American businesses stay competitive overseas,” said Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), the ranking member on the financial services committee. “Unfortunately, some Republicans are pushing a radical agenda to end the Export-Import Bank, which will cripple businesses and halt economic growth.” Export-Import Bank Chairman Fred Hochberg said he supports the measure from House Democrats. “We are pleased to see that a bill has been introduced,” he said. “We stand ready to work with Congress so we can continue to support U.S. jobs through exports.”