Business groups ramp up push for Ex-Im Bank to make larger loans

Business groups ramp up push for Ex-Im Bank to make larger loans
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A growing number of business groups are urging House and Senate leaders to approve a spending bill allowing the Export-Import Bank to approve larger loans again. 

Fifteen groups on Monday sent a letter calling on congressional leadership to include a temporary change to the agency's quorum requirement for its board of directors in a continuing resolution (CR) so that it may again review transactions over $10 million.

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Under current law, the five-member board must have three people to evaluate transactions above that level. There are only two board members now. 

In a Monday letter to Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanAt indoor rally, Pence says election runs through Wisconsin Juan Williams: Breaking down the debates Peterson faces fight of his career in deep-red Minnesota district MORE (R-Wis.), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSenate Republicans signal openness to working with Biden Hillicon Valley: DOJ indicts Chinese, Malaysian hackers accused of targeting over 100 organizations | GOP senators raise concerns over Oracle-TikTok deal | QAnon awareness jumps in new poll The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden asks if public can trust vaccine from Trump ahead of Election Day | Oklahoma health officials raised red flags before Trump rally MORE (R-Ky.) and Senate Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidSenate Republicans signal openness to working with Biden Mellman: The likely voter sham Bottom line MORE (D-Nev.), the groups argue that without the change, U.S. businesses "are at a significant disadvantage to global competitors who are aggressively supported by their own governments’ export credit agencies."

The heads of two groups — the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce — got the ball rolling last week by urging Congress to pass a CR with the temporary change to the board’s requirements.

The business groups say that since the 82-year-old agency has robust support in Congress and that a CR is the best way to to solve the issue amid an impasse in the Senate over approving a third board member.

Business groups and 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).

“Continuing to leave the agency handicapped not only harms the large manufacturers that will lose projects to foreign competitors with better access to financing, it also harms the small and medium-sized companies in their supply chains and threatens the hundreds of thousands of American workers whose jobs depend directly or indirectly on Ex-Im Bank’s export financing,” the groups wrote.

Separately, John Engler, president of the Business Roundtable, which is one of the groups that signed on to the letter, said the Senate's nearly nine-month stall in approving a third board member has been "frustrating" and his group is urging congressional leaders to move forward on the lingering issue.

"With every passing day, businesses from the United States are missing out on new business opportunities overseas, to the detriment of local economies and American jobs," the groups wrote.

“When fully operational, the Ex-Im Bank supports millions of U.S. jobs by enabling businesses of all sizes to compete more successfully in the global economy," they wrote.

In Congress, Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) and Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamSenate Republicans signal openness to working with Biden Loeffler calls for hearing in wake of Netflix's 'Cuties' Quinnipiac poll shows Graham, Harrison tied in South Carolina Senate race MORE (R-S.C.) have each won approval of identical language in the House and Senate 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.

McConnell said Monday he wants to pass a short-term spending bill this week that would keep the government running through Dec. 9.

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

The embattled bank has faced its fair share of hurdles in the past year. 

Conservatives who say the bank represents "crony capitalism" won a six-month shutdown of the bank in June of last year.

But supportive Democrats and Republicans in both chambers rallied and got the agency up and running before the end of 2015.

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.

Besides NAM, the Chamber and BRT, 12 other groups signed the letter: Aerospace Industries Association (AIA), American Chemistry Council (ACC), Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM), Bankers Association for Finance and Trade (BAFT), Coalition for Employment through Exports (CEE), Emergency Committee for American Trade (ECAT) Financial Services Roundtable (FSR), General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA), National Foreign Trade Council (NFTC), Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), Small Business Exporters Association (SBEA) and the United States Council for International Business (USCIB).