Senate Democrats intend to take up legislation this month reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank in the hope that a strong bipartisan vote in the chamber will help spur House Republican leaders to take up the measure.
"I believe we will bring the bill to the floor in July, before the August break, and we hope that business around the country, small businesses in particular, will rally to our side and tell their Congress member that we have to get the Export-Import Bank reauthorized," said Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., in a conference call with reporters.
“I think if we can pass it in the Senate, and particularly with a good bipartisan majority, there is more friendliness among Republicans for this bill, that it will put pressure on the House,” Schumer said.
His comments come after House Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, last week declined to commit to putting bank legislation on the floor before the credit agency’s authorization expires at the end of the fiscal year, Sept. 30.
“There’s a big debate going on in our conference, and we’re just going to have to sort our way through this,” Boehner said. “My job is to help facilitate the sorting through of this so that we can get to an outcome.”
Schumer pointed out that the GOP reluctance on extending the bank is just the latest of a series of business friendly proposals supported by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce at which Republicans have balked, including immigration reform, the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act, and a raft of expired tax breaks known as extenders. He attributes the change in position to the influence of the tea party.
"All of the sudden our Republican colleagues, particularly in the House, frightened by a small group that have a lot of power, particularly the tea party, has changed their point of view in way that definitely hurts the country, hurts the middle class and hurts jobs," Schumer said, adding that there could be a political price to pay.
Asked if the Chamber of Commerce, led by President Tom Donohue, should reconsider its traditional allegiance to the GOP Schumer said “I hope they would examine that, absolutely.”
“I’ve said this to Tom Donohue and to others, in many ways mainstream Democrats are closer to you than many Republicans because the tea party has pulled them so far to the right that they are doing what is harmful to business,” Schumer said.
Conservative Republicans have critical of the bank and called for ending it, arguing it is wasteful corporate welfare.
The bank “exists to dole out taxpayer-backed loan guarantees to help American exporters,” said Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, in an April floor speech. “Most of the benefits go to large corporations that are perfectly capable of securing private financing anywhere in the world. That is to say, Congress allows Ex-Im Bank to risk taxpayer money unnecessarily to subsidize well-connected private companies.”
But Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., who was also on the call, said that the bank also helps small many businesses.
While she concedes that large companies like Boeing get a disproportionately large amount of aid from the bank, it also helps the many small businesses in Boeing’s supply chain.
“Yes it does help U.S. manufacturers,” Cantwell said. “And what people need to understand first and foremost is that U.S. manufacturers have a supply chain that is made up of thousands of small businesses. So for us in the Northwest the supply chain that supports Boeing is about 80,000 people in Washington State. So that supply chain is affected by those deals that U.S. manufacturers can make in the global marketplace where there is world demand for 35,000 new airplanes. So without the Ex-Im bank we won’t be competitive and that small business supply chain will be hurt.”
Cantwell also said she wants more small business to avail themselves of the bank and “chase the global marketplace."
Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, who was also on the call, stressed that allowing the bank to expire would hurt the nation’s competitiveness given that other countries help their manufacturers.
“To not reauthorize the Ex-Im bank is like unilateral disarmament in our attempts to grow our manufacturing base and grow our export base,” North Dakota Democrat said.
“These are the arguments that are going to get our colleagues see the light and get this done sooner rather than later,” Heitkamp said.