Graham: 'No way in Hell' he will let Ex-Im shut down

Greg Nash

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey GrahamSenators to Obama: Make 'timely' call on Afghan troops levels Senate amendments could sink email privacy compromise Trump: Romney 'walks like a penguin' MORE (R-S.C.) said Wednesday there's “no way in hell” he will let the Export-Import Bank shut down.

Graham also said opposition to the bank “makes no friggin' sense.”

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Graham made the remarks at a Washington forum hosted by a broad coalition of officials from nearly 700 businesses that are in town this week urging lawmakers to reauthorize the bank’s charter. 

House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) has pushed to end the bank’s charter, arguing it picks winners and losers and is an example of Washington “corporate welfare.” Without a reauthorization by June 30, the bank would shut down.

Two of the bank's beneficiaries, Boeing and G.E., have a strong presence in Graham's home state. Both have manufacturing plants in South Carolina.

“There's no way in hell I'm going back to South Carolina and say, ‘Hey we shut down a bank because people ideologically objected to the bank and the reason you've lost these plants is because companies overseas doing the exact same thing have a bank,’” Graham said at a Washington forum hosted by businesses that support the bank.

He said that the Tea Party's criticism “makes no friggin' sense to me, quite frankly, that we're even having this discussion given the way the world really is.”

Sens. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said Wednesday that they plan to introduce legislation to reauthorize the bank through September 2019.

Kirk said at a press conference in Washington that they want to include provisions in their bill that would allow the bank to finance overseas power plants.

Bank officials adopted new policies in December that prevent them from financing overseas power plants that don't adopt greener technology. The rules are championed by environmentalists and opposed by the coal industry.

“We're going to work out the coal problem -- that's been holding us up,” Kirk said.

“Both of us come from coal states. Let me be very clear on this, coal is going to play a role in the future in the energy mix for a long time all over the world,” Manchin said.

In a bid to win more support for their measure, Kirk and Manchin said that their bill will require that Bank officials finance 25 percent of their portfolio to small businesses — an increase of five percentage points from the current 20 percent requirement.

Earlier Wednesday, House Democrats proposed a seven-year reauthorization bill that does not overturn Ex-Im’s new rules on coal.

Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-Tenn.) is pushing a five-year bill that would overturn the rules. He has 57 other GOP co-sponsors.

Hensarling hasn’t said whether he will move a bill through his committee, which has jurisdiction on the issue. 

If he doesn’t, House leadership could bypass his committee and bring a vote to the floor.

Earlier Wednesday, Hensarling sent a letter to colleagues reiterating his opposition to the bank's reauthorization.

“The best way to level the playing field for American exporters and manufacturers is not with taxpayer subsidies, guarantees, and politically-driven lending, but instead with more opportunity,” Hensarling wrote in the letter.

But Graham said at the Washington forum that it wasn't conservative to shut down the bank. He argued other countries have government-backed banks meant to promote domestic companies.

“Shutting this bank down in light of what other countries like China and France do is unilaterally surrendering to foreign opposition? That's not remotely conservative," Graham said at the forum, which was hosted by Bloomberg.

Officials from nearly 700 businesses are meeting with lawmakers this week in an effort to get the bank reauthorized. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers are two of the prominent business organizations working to reauthorize the bank.