Chamber lobbies GOP 2016 hopefuls on Ex-Im

Chamber lobbies GOP 2016 hopefuls on Ex-Im
© Greg Nash

U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue told members of Congress on Tuesday that he's lobbying 2016 Republican presidential candidates to support reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank.

Congress must reauthorize the controversial bank — which is vehemently opposed by the Tea Party as a form of "corporate welfare" — by June 30 or it will shut down.

"Could you please tell the Republican presidential candidates that they're wrong about the Ex-Im Bank?" Sen. Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellDemocratic unity starts to crack in coronavirus liability reform fight Trump nominee for Consumer Product Safety Commission involved in CDC guidance shelving: AP Senate votes to reauthorize intel programs with added legal protections MORE (D-Wash.) asked Donohue during a Senate Finance Committee hearing on trade.

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"You're damn right we tell them," Donohue answered. "I have told probably three of them myself."

He didn't say which ones.

Donohue's Chamber and a powerful coalition of business groups such as the National Association of Manufacturers argue that the bank sustains millions of U.S. jobs while helping American companies make inroads in emerging markets.

"We have a little plan to have a visit with some of these people in the normal course of business to point out what the bank means to this country and to American industry and particularly the thousands of thousands of small companies," Donohue said at the hearing.

Republicans are divided on whether to reauthorize the bank, while Democrats support it. Prominent House Republicans such as Reps. Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanLobbying world John Ratcliffe is the right choice for director of national intelligence — and for America House Democrat calls for halt to lawmakers sleeping in their offices MORE (Wis.) and Jeb Hensarling (Texas) oppose reauthorization.

Hensarling, whose House Financial Services Committee has jurisdiction on the issue, hasn't said whether he will move a bill through his panel.And Republican House leadership hasn't said whether they will bring a reauthorization bill to the floor if Hensarling doesn't act.

Sens. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn Heitkamp70 former senators propose bipartisan caucus for incumbents Susan Collins set to play pivotal role in impeachment drama Pro-trade group launches media buy as Trump and Democrats near deal on new NAFTA MORE (D-N.D.) and Mark KirkMark Steven KirkOn the Trail: Senate GOP hopefuls tie themselves to Trump Biden campaign releases video to explain 'what really happened in Ukraine' Why Republicans are afraid to call a key witness in the impeachment inquiry MORE (R-Ill.) introduced a reauthorization bill to extend the bank through the fall of 2019. Senate leadership said a vote is expected in the coming weeks and it is expected to pass.

GOP presidential candidates Sens. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: Former NIC Director Greg Treverton rips US response; WHO warns of 'immediate second peak' if countries reopen too quickly This week: Surveillance fight sets early test for House's proxy voting Overwhelming majority of publicly traded firms have not returned small-business loans: review MORE (Fla.), Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulTrump urges GOP to vote against bill reauthorizing surveillance powers Sunday shows preview: States begin to reopen even as some areas in US see case counts increase Congress headed toward unemployment showdown MORE (Ky.) and Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzWSJ editorial board condemns Trump for 'trash' Scarborough tweets: 'Ugly even for him' Progressives raise alarm over letting lobbying groups access PPP funds Green group proposes nearly T infrastructure and clean energy stimulus plan MORE (Texas) all oppose the bank. Expected GOP presidential candidates such as former Fla. Gov. Jeb Bush and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker oppose it, too.

Former-Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), who is also thought to be mulling another White House run, offered support for the bank on Tuesday.

Santorum tweeted a picture of himself meeting with officials at a Rockwell, Texas, manufacturing plant "to see how #ExImBank helps small manufacturers in the U.S."

Cantwell used some of her questioning time to defend Boeing, which has become a Tea Party political piñata of sorts in recent months because it receives more than one-third of Ex-Im's total loan commitments, according to a 2014 report from Standard & Poor.

"When people talk about Boeing being a lot of the Ex-Im Bank — it's almost as if people want us to apologize that we don't make a lot of chotskies and ship them over to China for them to buy," Cantwell said.

She said that Americans are "lucky that we make a very expensive product with a lot of skilled workers and we want people to buy those plans."

"And so I hope people will stop and realize that aerospace manufacturing is a lot of jobs in the United States of America," Cantwell said.

Delta Airlines has lobbied heavily to put restrictions on how Ex-Im finances deals for wide-body aircrafts. Delta has argued that foreign governments have unfairly taken advantage of Ex-Im's lower borrowing costs for Boeing, ultimately leading to lower-ticket prices for Delta's competitors.