As the charter for the Export-Import Bank was lapsing, President Barack Obama penned opinion pieces in a number of newspapers across the country asking readers to pressure their lawmakers to bring it back.
"Your members of Congress are home this week. So if you're a small business owner – or an employee of a large business that depends on financing to sell in new markets and create new jobs – tell your senators to quit treating your business like it's expendable. Tell your representative to stop the delays," Obama writes in the version published in Wednesday's Birmingham News . "It's time for Congress to do its job, and keep America's exports growing."
The language of each piece is similar, and the White House push to get small business owners to engage with their members seems logical, since the expectation is that if put to a vote, the Export-Import Bank would sail through to renewal. In the meantime, the agency can only provide services for existing obligations, leaving new opportunities for businesses large and small by the wayside.
Sen. Mark S. Kirk, R-Ill., has been one of the Republicans championing the Export-Import Bank's renewal.
"As the author of bipartisan legislation that reauthorizes and reforms the Export-Import Bank and enjoys supermajority support in the Senate, I am disappointed the Bank is expiring today. We cannot unilaterally disarm against foreign competitors like China by foolishly killing this critical tool that supports 46,000 Illinois jobs," Kirk said in a statement ahead of the lapse.
"The good news is, the support in Congress is there. Strong majorities of Democrats and Republicans have said they'd vote to reauthorize the bank. Congressional leaders just need to call a vote," Obama wrote in the Chicago version. "That's all it'll take to get the Export-Import Bank back on track."
Last week, Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., told reporters that supporters of Export-Import Bank reauthorization will be meeting with Obama shortly after the Senate returns on July 8. She said details were still being worked out on exactly which lawmakers might attend.
"I think what is going to happen is a little more organic than top-down planning. ... I think that several members have events planned in particular areas where manufacturing is very strong," Cantwell said. "While our colleagues on the other side are going to say well, we don't want to have the floor time to have this debate, we're saying this isn't a debate. If you want to help the American economy, and you want to help jobs – which is what we think we're going to hear a lot about during the recess – then you would take this up and get it done."
Cantwell has traveled the country in recent weeks advocating for the Export-Import Bank. One of her state's largest employers, Boeing, benefits greatly from the bank's export financing.
A test vote as part of the defense authorization debate on the Senate floor demonstrated a proposal led by Kirk and Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota has support of more than 60 senators, and supporters have been confident they would prevail in the House. The next likely vehicle seems to be the next surface transportation bill at the end of July.
But opponents were cheering Tuesday night and into Wednesday morning as the Ex-Im Bank posted a formal notice of lapse in authorization on its website.
“Congress is right to let the authorization for the Export-Import Bank expire. The Bank has become the 'Enron' of the federal government, a poster child for the worst of Washington’s corruption and mismanagement. American businesses are strong enough to compete on their own, without interference from unaccountable federal bureaucrats looking to line their own pockets," said Rep. Bill Flores of Texas. "I urge my fellow conservatives in Congress to join me in making sure the Bank begins an orderly wind down beginning today."
Flores is the chairman of the House Republican Study Committee, which has formally opposed reauthorizing the bank's charter.
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