Senate Dems urge Shelby to take up Ex-Im nomination

Senate Dems urge Shelby to take up Ex-Im nomination
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A majority of Senate Democrats on Thursday urged Republicans to hold a vote on a nominee that would allow the Export-Import Bank to finance larger deals.

Sens. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampDems to challenge Kavanaugh for White House records To solve the southern border crisis, look past the border The Hill's Morning Report: Dems have a majority in the Senate (this week) MORE (N.D.) and Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellSenators share their fascination with sharks at hearing Poll: Majority of Americans support Roe v. Wade The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by Better Medicare Alliance — Protests and anger: Washington in turmoil as elections near MORE (Wash.), along with 40 other Democratic senators, sent a letter to Senate Banking Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) asking him to consider the nomination of Mark McWatters, who would give Ex-Im's board of directors the quorum needed to make bigger loans. 

“Should the committee fail to move forward with the nomination process, it will have a material, negative impact on jobs at small and large companies alike — as well as up and down the manufacturing supply chain — jeopardizing the livelihood of thousands of hard working men and women across the United States,” the senators wrote.

Earlier in the day, the National Association of Manufacturers and U.S. Chamber of Commerce called on Senate leaders to confirm McWatters.

The senators argue that the United States is losing about $50 million every day the McWatters nomination is delayed.

Since 2009, Ex-Im’s board has approved and disbursed financing for 478 transactions supporting exports for more than 2,000 companies, including more than 800 small businesses, they said.

"There is no doubt that the will of both the Senate and the House is to allow Ex-Im to do its job and continue to produce critical export credit financing that facilitates U.S. exports and supports American workers," they wrote. 

Without a quorum, the 82-year-old agency can't approve loans for more than $10 million, making it difficult for many U.S. firms — large and small — to get the financing guarantees they need.

Ex-Im has more than 30 pending transactions in the pipeline valued at more than $20 billion. All require the board's approval because each exceeds the $10 million threshold, the agency told The Hill.

A year ago, Congress let Ex-Im’s charter expire for the first time in the agency’s history.

In December, Congress reauthorized the bank for four years with strong support in the House and Senate. But the shortage of board members has remained a problem hampering the bank's business.

If approved, McWatters, who is a former staffer for House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), would fill one of three vacancies on the five-member board. 

McWatters was nominated more than five months ago and he has yet to receive a hearing, the senators said.