We’ll soon find out whether a congressional election in Virginia will pluck money and jobs from the U.S. economy, and Washington’s in particular.
The stunning defeat of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor carries local significance because he was the key to getting the Export-Import Bank reauthorized two years ago. His replacement, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said on Sunday that he favors closing down the bank when its charter expires Sept. 30.
McCarthy supported reauthorization in 2012, but the conservative winds that blew Cantor out of office appear to be buffeting the entire House Republican leadership. When asked about the issue on Monday, U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers wouldn’t commit to supporting the bank, stating that she supports “a way forward” for Washington’s exports “while at the same time protecting taxpayer dollars.”
That’s a weak response when thousands of Washington jobs, many in her district, depend on the bank. The entire Washington delegation backed the bank two years ago, and a stronger push is needed now.
The Ex-Im Bank, as it’s known, was created 80 years ago. It helps support U.S. exports by guaranteeing loans to foreign buyers and providing credit insurance. Boeing, General Electric and Caterpillar are some of its biggest beneficiaries. On Fox News Sunday, McCarthy said he’s against it “because the private sector can do it.”
McCarthy would leave the issue in the hands of Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, a longtime foe of the bank. Washington, the nation’s most trade-dependent state, has much to fear from the Texan and his tea party colleagues, who probably would have killed the bank in 2012 if Cantor hadn’t worked around Hensarling to bring it to a vote.
The Obama administration and business interests are lobbying hard for the bank, because private banks can’t, or won’t, step up.
Boeing’s stock dropped as investors pondered a future without the Ex-Im Bank.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers are among the business groups telling members of Congress that if the bank is disbanded, the United States would be put at a competitive disadvantage compared with other nations that already offer more robust trade support.
Washington Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray and Gov. Jay Inslee held a weekend event in Spokane to support the bank. They were joined by the chief executive officer and president of SCAFCO, a Spokane company that exports grain storage systems and steel framing products to 82 countries. The company is one of 14 in Eastern Washington that has been helped by the bank. About $37 billion in exports and 200,000 American jobs were supported by Ex-Im deals last year, with more than half of those jobs in our state.
Critics call the program “corporate welfare,” but the loan program is self-supporting and returned $1 billion to Uncle Sam last year. If that’s welfare, the federal budget could use more of it. The Ex-Im Bank has been a boon for Washington’s exporters. The delegation, including McMorris Rodgers, needs to fight to keep it.