Congress still has time to save the Export-Import Bank and avoid letting ideology kill an important tool for boosting American exporters.
NOW that Congress is back from its Fourth of July recess, lawmakers should prioritize reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank.
The relatively obscure bank provided credit and loan guarantees for foreign buyers of American-made goods — an important tool for many U.S. exporters both small and large — until its charter expired June 30.
During the bank’s 81-year history, Congress routinely renewed its charter, until this year when some shortsighted lawmakers blocked bills to reauthorize the Ex-Im Bank before the deadline. Congress has the votes to save the bank — as long as leaders can drown out a few loud voices.
In the last few years, anti-big-government and conservative politicians and think tanks, including several backed by the conservative and moneyed Koch brothers, have disparaged the Ex-Im Bank as an example of “crony capitalism” — government giving businesses too much help to succeed.
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Those arguments are based on wrongheaded ideology not reality. In a recent opinion piece in The Boston Globe, President Obama argued that the Ex-Im Bank’s main purpose is to boost American jobs by increasing exports. The bank generates a surplus from interest rates and fees it charges — no handouts required, he noted.
The Ex-Im Bank provides financial services the private sector doesn’t. It gives U.S. exporters a similar advantage to competitors from more than 60 countries that also operate credit agencies.
For Washington firms, the Ex-Im Bank financed $7.2 billion worth of exports in 2014 and $130 billion total since 2007. The bank serves multinational players, such as Boeing and General Electric. It also helps hundreds of small companies that otherwise can’t compete globally.
In May, U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., bargained with Republican leaders to secure a vote in the Senate on the Ex-Im charter by agreeing to vote for other trade bills. So far, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has yet to deliver on his end of the deal, but suggested that reauthorization could be part of a highway package. McConnell should lean toward Cantwell’s preference for a simpler and faster stand-alone vote.
The Export-Import Bank works. Congress should not delay reauthorization.