Senate Ex-Im Supporters Frustrated with House Inaction

Senators who support reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank expressed frustration with the House of Representatives for its lack of renewal, though they said they have high hopes after the August recess.

With the House already on summer vacation, the earliest the bank could be renewed would be after Labor Day.

“I’m going to continue to keep my eye on this,” said Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), a bank supporter. “Generally things that have well over 60 senators and a majority of the House for them end up coming along. I think Ex-Im could be extended by the end of the year.”

Abbie McDonough, a spokesperson for Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), said in an interview that the senator was “frustrated that the House hasn’t taken up Ex-Im renewal,” but would continue working on all possible options to get the bank back to being fully operational.

Business groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers, have launched a public relations blitz to try to get the bank’s charter reauthorized.

“Congressional inaction on both is gambling jobs in the United States, ceding our mantle of economic leadership to foreign competitors and hurting small businesses and manufacturers,” the manufacturers’ association said after the House passed a three-month highway extension that did not include new life for the Export-Import Bank.

The White House is also getting involved in the debate, holding meetings with small business owners last week at the White House who said their businesses were threatened by the suspension of bank financing.

And the largest businesses that benefit from the bank are using their own leverage. On Wednesday, Boeing chairman Jim McNerney said the company was actively considering moving “key pieces” of its operations to countries that offer export credits, though he did not specify which countries or how much of Boeing’s workforce could be moved.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), a co-sponsor of the Senate’s reauthorization bill that passed in a 64-29 vote on Monday, said in an interview that the lack of reauthorization by the House was “a shame, especially when you’ve got Boeing saying they’re looking to move some of their operations offshore so they can take advantage of other countries.”

The Export-Import Bank has been without a charter since June 30, after an aggressive campaign by conservative groups like the Heritage Foundation and conservatives in Congress who wanted to get rid of what they called the crown jewel of crony capitalism. The bank continues to honor outstanding loan guarantees, but it is unable to authorize new loans without congressional action.

Other than as a standalone measure, a possible vehicle for bank reauthorization could come at the end of September when Congress must pass a budget — or, more likely, a continuing resolution — to keep the government funded.

Asked whether that attaching renewal to a continuing resolution would be a viable strategy, Manchin said: “We’re looking at every possibility. It’s that important to our country.”

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