Export-Import Bank Reauthorization Clears Congress

May 16, 2012 By Joel Paque and Meghan Simonds

Despite several months of what was at times very contentious debate over the fate of the Export-Import (Ex-Im) Bank, yesterday the Senate overwhelmingly approved a House-passed reauthorization bill that will extend Ex-Im’s charter through September of 2014 and raise the bank’s lending authority to $140 billion, a 40% increase over current levels.  The Senate passed the reauthorization compromise by a vote of 78-20, following the House’s passage of the bill last week by a vote of 330-93House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) were instrumental in forging this compromise measure.

Supported by an array of business interests like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), the Ex-Im Bank is an important tool that helps keep America competitive in the global economy.  American businesses recognize expansion into new markets is critical to continued growth.  In fact, new forecasts from the World Bank see economic growth in Africa accelerating by over 5%, which is greater than the 3% growth the U.S. is currently experiencing, underscoring that some of the best opportunities for investment are in the developing world.  More exports to these markets means more jobs for Americans back home—in fact, studies have shown that for every 10% increase in U.S. exports, there is a 7% increase in U.S. jobs.  Since it was founded in 1934, the Ex-Im Bank has financed over $474 billion of U.S. exports.  Last year alone, the Bank facilitated about $40 billion in exports from U.S. companies of all sizes, supported 288,000 American jobs, and generated about $700 million in revenue for the Federal Treasury.

On the Senate floor yesterday, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), the Ranking Member of the State-Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee, shared his view that the Ex-Im Bank “makes money, it doesn’t lose money” and “has been a sound way to get American made products into the international marketplace.”  Warning of the threats to America’s global leadership by not reauthorizing the bank, Senator Graham cited NAM’s statistics on other nations’ efforts in export promotion: “In 2010, Canada, France and India provided seven times, and China and Brazil ten times, more export assistance as a share of GDP than did the United States.”

Five amendments that sought to restrict (and in one case phase-out) the Ex-Im Bank were struck down by the Senate, but other provisions seeking to make the bank more transparent and accountable were included in the compromise forged by Reps. Cantor and Hoyer. Any transaction of $100 million or more will now require greater transparency and reporting requirements, and the Bank will be required to maintain default rates below 2 percent, as well as submit to Congress both a business plan and a report responsive to criticism of its current risk-management practices. The compromise language also requires the Treasury Department to engage trading partners in talks to move towards ending the practice of export financing subsidies altogether.

The overwhelming support of the bank’s reauthorization in both chambers speaks to the bipartisan recognition of how critical the International Affairs Budget is to our nation’s global leadership and competiveness.  The reauthorization has headed to the White House for the President’s signature ahead of the May 31 expiration deadline.