Business groups ramp up pressure to fill Ex-Im board

Business groups ramp up pressure to fill Ex-Im board
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Two powerful businesses groups warned on Thursday that the United States will lose jobs without a quorum on the Export-Import Bank's board of directors.

The National Association of Manufacturers and U.S. Chamber of Commerce are ramping up pressure on Senate leaders to confirm Mark McWatters as the third member of the Ex-Im Bank’s five-person board.

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"Without a quorum of board members, it cannot authorize certain transactions that will protect U.S. jobs," said NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons and Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tom Donohue in a joint statement.

"The games, delays and political maneuvering have gone on long enough and are damaging our economy," Timmons and Donohue said.

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.

“The past few days have reminded all of us that global volatility poses significant challenges for U.S. businesses and manufacturers of all sizes," Timmons and Donohue said.

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.

“We must have every available tool to secure jobs at home and sell our products to customers overseas,” said Timmons and Donohue.

“The Ex-Im Bank is a critical tool, giving American workers the ability to compete and win in the global economy,” they said.

Conservatives opposed to the bank were able to briefly close its doors last summer after blocking the bill from House floor action. 

In the fall though a group of Democrats and Republicans teamed up and made a rare procedural move that kicked the Ex-Im bill loose, making it available for consideration.

In December, Congress reauthorized the Ex-Im's charter, which had expired in June, until September 2019. The bank helps U.S. firms finance overseas projects.

“The Senate needs to vote on the nominee for the Ex-Im Board of directors to get this important institution up and running again,” Timmons and Donohue said.

“Overwhelming majorities in both chambers of Congress voted to reauthorize the bank last year, and there should be no further delay in making it fully operational,” they said.

House and Senate Democrats have expressed growing frustration over the past couple of months because Senate leaders, especially Banking Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) have refused to consider McWatters, a Republican who worked for House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas).

To that end, Shelby, who opposes the agency, has refused to budge on the matter and has said that he wants President Obama to send a nominee up to Capitol Hill to fill the open slot of vice chairman of supervision to the Federal Reserve before he will act on the other pending nominees.

This spring, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellRepublicans aim to avoid war with White House over impeachment strategy New York Times editorial board calls for Trump's impeachment CNN's Cuomo promotes 'Dirty Donald' hashtag, hits GOP for 'loyalty oath' to Trump MORE (R-Ky.), who also opposes the agency, said that he is willing to consider the nominee if the committee reports it out.