Washington’s two senators helped sponsor a bipartisan bill Thursday that would keep a major export program important to the state from going out of business.
But Congress, which starts a five-week recess this weekend, will have to use parliamentary shortcuts to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank for five years before its current charter runs out on Sept. 30.
Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., called it a “crucial tool for growing American manufacturing jobs and increasing exports.”
The bill continues existing efforts to make sure small businesses get a share of money to help secure foreign orders, she said. It also requires a business plan that limits the bank’s exposure and analyzes key markets, as well as a Government Accountability Office study on bank practices that pose risks to taxpayers.
The proposal has bipartisan support in the Senate, but it’s unclear if the reforms will satisfy House Republicans who contend the 80-year-old export program is a form of corporate welfare in which the federal government should not be involved.
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Spokane, a member of House Republican leadership, has said she can’t support reauthorizing the Ex-Im bank without major reforms. Asked about the Senate proposal, a spokeswoman said the issue “continues to be worked on in the House” and could be considered next month.
“The congresswoman recognizes the importance of the Ex-Im to Eastern Washington jobs, which is why she continues to push for important reforms on its reauthorization,” Audrey Scagnelli said.
Earlier in the week, McMorris Rodgers told the National Journal she expected it to be reauthorized, at least on a short-term basis. Cantwell said Thursday she’s heard House Republicans might place a temporary reauthorization on a continuing budget resolution if one is needed to carry the nation into the next fiscal year.
“A three-month extension doesn’t get us anywhere,” Cantwell argued, saying businesses need to offer foreign customers certainty the program will be around longer than a few months.
Washington is the most trade-dependent state in the nation, and McMorris Rodgers was the only member of the state’s bipartisan delegation not to sign a letter urging House Speaker John Boehner to reauthorize the Ex-Im Bank. She said as a member of leadership she doesn’t sign letters to leadership.
A study by the Mercatus Center, a market-oriented research organization at George Mason University, published a study that says nearly 44 percent of the Ex-Im Banks funding goes to companies in Washington state, where Boeing is a top beneficiary of the program. The author of the study, Veronique de Rugy, has called the bank “crony capitalism.”
Cantwell said Boeing needs the Ex-Im Bank to compete against foreign aerospace makers who have government subsidies for their products. Washington has a large percentage of the Ex-Im funding because Boeing jetliners are expensive.
“I’m not embarrassed that we have a product that costs over $100 million,” she said.