Business groups urge Congress to give Ex-Im Bank power to make larger loans

Business groups urge Congress to give Ex-Im Bank power to make larger loans
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Two business groups are backing congressional efforts to ensure the Export-Import Bank can approve larger loans amid an impasse in the Senate over approving a board nominee.

The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Thursday urged lawmakers to approve a stopgap spending bill that would allow the Ex-Im Bank to have only two board members, one short of the three needed for a quorum, to make loans of more than $10 million again.

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NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons and Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Thomas Donohue said a continuing resolution (CR) is the most viable path to restoring full operations at the 82-year-old agency. 

"A supermajority in Congress has already settled the question of Ex-Im reauthorization and there is simply no more time to waste,” Timmons and Donohue said in a statement. 

“Following the Senate’s failure to act on a board nomination that would reinstate the bank’s full functionality, we urge Congress to embrace identical language adopted in both the House and Senate foreign operations appropriations bills to fully reopen the bank as intended," they said. 

Earlier this summer, Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) and Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamSenate panel advances three spending bills Trump says he will sign executive order to end family separations Trump backs narrow bill halting family separations: official MORE (R-S.C.) won approval of their amendments to their respective state and foreign operations spending bills that would allow the Ex-Im Bank to operate for up to three years with only two board members, instead of three, on the five-member board.

Dent feels that since identical language is in both spending bills, it should be included in a CR as well, a House aide said. 

Under current law, a third board member is needed for the agency to approve loans of more than $10 million.

The CR must be enacted before the new fiscal year begins Oct. 1 to avoid a government shutdown.

Lawmakers supportive of the Ex-Im Bank are pursuing the provision as a way to get around Senate Banking Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), who has refused to take action on the nomination of Mark McWatters, a Republican who once worked for House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas).

A group of Senate Democrats, including several of whom serve on the banking panel, have in the past several months urged Shelby to hold a vote on McWatters but to no avail. 

In the spring, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellFive things to know about efforts to repeal Obama's water rule Mulvaney aims to cement CFPB legacy by ensuring successor's confirmation Senate left in limbo by Trump tweets, House delays MORE (R-Ky.), who also opposes the agency, said that he was willing to consider the nominee if the committee sent it to the floor.

At this point, the bank has gone more than a year without being able to take action on those larger deals.

During that time, more than 30 transactions worth more than $20 billion have gotten stuck in the pipeline, according to the agency.

The business groups have deployed hundreds of their members to Capitol Hill over the past several months to convince Shelby to vote on McWatters.  

Shelby has yet to relent to the pressure.

Last year, Ex-Im was shut down for six months after Hensarling and other conservative lawmakers blocked its charter from being renewed.

Conservatives have long called the bank an example of “crony capitalism" that focuses its attention on large companies like Boeing.

But House Democrats and Republicans teamed up last fall and got the embattled agency's doors reopened at the end of the year.