Political Jockeying Continues in Ex-Im Reauthorization Fight

Supporters of the Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im) continue to wait for the Senate to formally attach the measure to larger legislation a week after the House of Representatives voted 313 to 118 to reauthorize the export assistance agency. Meanwhile, conservative House lawmakers reportedly are searching for other ways to restrict Ex-Im, whose charter was allowed to expire in July.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has held to his position that he does not want to bring Ex-Im’s reauthorization bill for a vote on its own and would rather attach it to the “must pass” Highway Trust Fund bill in coming days or weeks. Solid support appears to exist in the Senate to pass a bill with the same wording as used in its House counterpart—There were 64 senators that voted in favor of a similar version over the summer.

Meanwhile, far-right House lawmakers are trying another strategy toward scuttling Ex-Im by proposing several significant amendments to its version of the Highway Trust Fund bill that would place new restrictions on the bank (e.g., allowing only small businesses to participate in Ex-Im programs, barring Ex-Im from working with businesses in certain countries or regions including the Middle East, etc.). House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) has recently bashed Ex-Im alongside of the Tea Party wing of the GOP, likening it to a form of corporate welfare. That assertion, as well as the reality that the United States is now the only major economy lacking a fully functional export credit agency (it may only service previous loans), has been widely and deeply panned by most political moderates, business analysts and economists.

Ex-Im, through the fees it charges, enables companies to sell products to foreign-based buyers that otherwise have insufficient borrowing options. Ex-Im typically generates a taxpayer-neutral result or, more frequently, a surplus; and it has not relied on taxpayer money to cover its activity at any point this decade. Agency supporters have expressed concern that previously funded companies may need to move some manufacturing operations outside of the U.S. if Ex-Im remains closed; that competitors subsidized by foreign governments would have an unfair advantage; and that domestic jobs will shrink at companies of various sizes.

- Brian Shappell, NACM managing editor, CBA, CICP

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