Opponents, primarily conservative Republicans, are challenging the potential reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank). Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) of the House Financial Services Committee used a speech at the Heritage Foundation on May 20 to argue against re-authorization of the Ex-Im Bank, calling it "corporate cronyism" and describing it as an element of the "Washington insider economy." Hensarling's committee has jurisdiction over the Ex-Im Bank, and the Bank's charter will expire if it is not renewed by September 30.
The eighty-year-old Ex-Im Bank serves as the official export credit agency of the United States. It offers financing, including direct loans and loan guarantees, to support the export of American manufactured goods and services by assuming country and credit risks that private sector lenders may be unable or unwilling to accept. In the 2013 fiscal year, the Ex-Im Bank approved over $27 billion in authorizations supporting over $37 billion in export sales. The agency earned a surplus of over $1 billion in the 2013 fiscal year, which it returned to the Treasury Department.
Chairman Hensarling's statements reflect a disagreement within the Republican Party over potential reauthorization. The Chairman explicitly opposes the continued existence of the Ex-Im Bank, a view supported by conservative think tanks and advocacy groups such as Americans for Prosperity, the American Conservative Union, the Cato Institute, the Club for Growth, and the Heritage Foundation. However, some Republicans strongly support reauthorizing the Ex-Im Bank, including Representative John Campbell (R-CA), who also sits on the House Financial Services Committee and has drafted a bill for reauthorization. Republican Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois recently joined with another member of the Senate Banking Committee, Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, in a letter to committee leadership supporting reauthorization, asserting that a majority of the Senate supports reauthorization. Fred Hochberg, the Chairman and President of the Ex-Im Bank, testified before the committee in March about the importance of reauthorization. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers are two prominent groups that strongly support reauthorization.
Opponents of Ex-Im Bank reauthorization argue that Ex-Im Bank distorts the market, picks winners and losers, and serves special interests. They argue that large corporations that receive much of the financing provided by Ex-Im Bank do not need help from the government. Some opponents refer to Ex-Im Bank as the Bank of Boeing, because Boeing is the biggest beneficiary of Ex-Im Bank financing, reportedly receiving $48.63 billion in financing in the last five years. Delta Airlines and the Air Line Pilots Association oppose certain financing for aircraft exports because they allege such financing allows foreign airlines to purchase aircraft more cheaply than domestic airlines. Proponents, on the other hand, point to the Ex-Im Bank's surplus, emphasize that 85 percent of Ex-Im Bank loans are given to small businesses, and argue that such financing simply "levels the playing field" for U.S. exporters by matching the financing terms that other governments provide to their exporters.
This conflict follows the 2012 dispute over reauthorization, which was settled when recently-defeated House Majority Leader Eric Cantor brokered a deal. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, like the majority of Democrats, remains in favor of reauthorization of the Ex-Im Bank and has stated that he would work with Cantor to bypass Chairman Hensarling and the House Financial Services Committee if necessary, but that such a plan may be complicated by a reauthorization deadline only weeks before the mid-term elections.
This review of the Ex-Im Bank reauthorization process was contributed by King & Spalding summer associate Kate Benner, a student at the Columbia University School of Law.