It’s not a bank with a household name, but chances are that by the end of the month you’ll hear a whole lot more about the Export-Import Bank. Known simply as Ex-Im, the bank’s charter is set to expire at the end of the month unless Congress approves a full reauthorization or an extension of several months. And that extension is being opposed by a vocal, largely tea party group.
Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Ballwin, a member of the House Financial Services Committee, told St. Louis Public Radio, Wednesday, that talks underway could extend the bank’s charter for several months. “There is some talk about a short-term reauthorization, perhaps six or seven months on Ex-Im,” she said. “I’d like it to be longer than that. I’d like to find a way for Ex-Im to have the proper reforms and be with us so that we can compete abroad for a long time.,” Wagner said.
Critics of the bank say it amounts to little more than corporate welfare and puts the federal government in the business of picking winners and losers. Another charge is that its lending and insurance services amount to federal aid for some of the biggest companies in the U.S., including airplane maker Boeing.
Wagner, U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg during the George W. Bush administration, says “Ex-Im bank is not about picking winners and losers, it’s about leveling the playing field internationally.” As someone who was involved in trade negotiations, Wagner says “it was something that allowed us to be in the game and actually grow our export market.”
Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, chairs the House Financial Services Committee and is one of the bank’s most prominent critics. His call for it to be abolished puts him at odds with most members of Congress and traditional Republican allies in business.;
Ex-Im has support from manufacturers and chambers of commerce across the country that are reaching out to local media with the message that Ex-Im creates jobs and helps small businesses compete on the global stage.; For her part, Wagner rejects the corporate welfare argument and says, “Ex-Im is about jobs, thousands and thousands of jobs in the St. Louis Region.”
U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., also backs reauthorization and chides tea party Republican opponents in the House. “This was one of Ronald Reagan’s favorite programs,” she said. “As I travel around the state and visited with a lot of these manufacturers that benefit from this institution, they’re scratching their heads wonder what is it that’s causing this kind of lack of common sense,” she said. McCaskill says she’s certain if Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, were to put the reauthorization measure for a vote, it would pass the House.
A Little History
The bank was established in 1934, under an executive order of President Franklin Roosevelt with the stated objective of boosting exports and imports between the U.S. and other countries. In 1954, Congress made the bank an independent agency of the federal government with a requirement that it be reauthorized about every five years; something it has done at least 15 times since. In 2007, the bank officially began funding its own operations with the proceeds from its loans, but those loans continue to be backed by the federal government.