Kirk to co-sponsor Manchin Ex-Im bill

Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) told The Hill on Thursday he is co-sponsoring Sen. Joe Manchin's (D-W.V.) legislation to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank.

“I will be backing the bill and backing Joe Manchin,” Kirk told The Hill, adding that the plan is to introduce the legislation next week. “I will co-sponsor.”

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Kirk said that he hadn't committed to backing the plan earlier this week because of concerns that the issue would become hyper-partisan, reiterating what a Kirk spokeswoman said on Tuesday. 

The spokeswoman's comments on Tuesday came hours after Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told reporters on a conference call the Senate would pass an Ex-Im reauthorization bill with bipartisan support before the end of July, further politicizing the issue.

A senior Kirk aide told The Hill on Thursday that Schumer's comments potentially signaled that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) would use Rule 14 to bypass a Committee vote, bringing a Democratic bill directly to the Senate floor.

“Tuesday, Sen. Kirk was concerned that any additional partisan conflict would ensue from Schumer's announcement may further jeopardize the reauthorization,” the senior aide told The Hill.

The Manchin-Kirk five-year reauthorizaton proposal would increase the 80-year-old bank’s credit-exposure cap from $140 billion to $160 billion. It would also roll back restrictions that Bank officials implemented in December limiting Ex-Im's ability to finance coal powered plants.

In the Senate, Kirk has long been a champion of Ex-Im. Two of the bank's major beneficiaries, Boeing and Caterpillar, are headquartered in his state. 

The senior Kirk aide said that Kirk advocated for the bill to restrict Ex-Im from financing partnerships with “bad players like French company BNP Paribas," which recently pleaded guilty to violating U.S. sanctions with Iran, U.S. Sudan and Cuba.

The Kirk aide said that his “consistent support of reauthorization is rooted in protecting Illinois companies like Boeing,” and that he is working to make sure “Ex-Im funds support Boeing airplanes.”

That could prove a sticking point if the House were to pass a bill like the one proposed by retiring Rep. John Campbell (R-Calif.), who is seeking to limit how much the bank can loan to foreign and state-owned businesses, a policy Delta Airlines champions. Delta argues that Ex-Im unfairly gives a leg up to foreign competitors by financing Boeing's wide-body aircrafts. 

Kirk said Thursday that he “hadn't seen” Campbell's working draft of the proposal.

Congress needs to reauthorize Ex-Im by Sept. 30 or its charter expires. Tea Party conservatives argue that Ex-Im is crony capitalism and corporate welfare. Democrats and centrist-Republicans argue that it helps U.S. businesses enter into emerging markets, while supporting U.S. jobs.

Even if Campbell or another House Republican were to introduce a reauthorization bill, it’s unclear if Ex-Im critic and House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) would allow a House bill to move through the committee.