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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Ex-Im Bank faces crucial vote

Kevin Graeler Correspondent

WASHINGTON – The Export-Import Bank could take a step toward resurrection Monday in a scheduled vote in the House of Representatives.

Supporters say the 81-year-old federal bank, which dates to the Depression, helps businesses sell products overseas by guaranteeing loans to customers. American companies’ foreign competitors have access to similar support, they argue.

“Not only does the bank level the playing field but it also supports job growth, capital investment and helps reduce the national debt,” said Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho.

Critics call the agency corporate welfare, with some naming it the “Bank of Boeing” for how it benefits the aerospace giant and other major companies.

“It picks winners and losers and injects political agendas into their financing. That is not how the free enterprise system should work,” Rep. Paul Ryan said earlier this month in a speech in his Wisconsin district. Ryan, the likely new speaker of the House of Representatives, also called the bank crony capitalism.

The bank says it supported more than 160,000 jobs and $27 billion in exports last year. At least 237 Washington businesses have used its services in the past decade.

Since the bank’s charter expired on July 1, General Electric said it would move 500 jobs overseas and Boeing said it lost two lucrative satellite contracts.

Since July, supporters have searched for a way to bring the divisive issue to a vote. Earlier this month, a bipartisan group collected 218 signatures on a special petition to force the legislation out of the Financial Services Committee, where it was stalled, and onto the House floor for the upcoming vote. Because those signatures represent a majority of the House, lawmakers expect the bill to renew the bank will pass.

But it faces an uncertain future in the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell opposes the bank’s reauthorization. The Senate can’t vote unless he schedules a vote.

Senators voted 64-29 earlier this year to reauthorize the bank, but that was part of a bill to renew highway programs. That’s not in the House bill, so another vote would be needed.

The Northwest delegations are split. Idaho Republican Sens. Jim Risch and Mike Crapo have voted to kill the bank, while Washington Democratic Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray are leading proponents of its renewal.

“Last year, nearly 100 companies in our state, including small businesses in the Spokane area, used the Export-Import Bank to help sell Washington products overseas – meaning local companies can hire more workers and add even more to our state’s economy,” Murray said Thursday in a statement.

Eight of Washington’s 10 representatives and Idaho’s Simpson were on board with the successful petition that brings the bank’s renewal back to the House floor. Washington Republican Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Jaime Herrera Beutler and Idaho Republican Rep. Raul Labrador didn’t sign on.

The Spokane City Council urged McMorris Rodgers last month to back the bank’s reauthorization because 90 percent of its money goes toward small or medium-size businesses and it supports $63 million in export sales in Eastern Washington. She has called for unspecified reforms to the bank, as have others in House GOP leadership who oppose it.

President Barack Obama supports the bank’s renewal. If the bill gets to his desk, he’s expected to sign it.

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