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Ex-Im faces new problems with Trump

Ex-Im faces new problems with Trump
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Supporters of the embattled Export-Import Bank are urging congressional lawmakers to restore its full lending powers during the lame-duck session.

Business leaders are making one last push to convince Congress to pass a provision that would temporarily lower a quorum requirement so the agency can approve loans of more than $10 million.

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The bank now has only two confirmed board members, one short of the three needed to approve larger transactions that are in the pipeline. 

“I want it to be up and running,” said Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamRepublicans ready to become deficit hawks again under a President Biden Let's give thanks to Republican defenders of democracy Clyburn: Biden falling short on naming Black figures to top posts MORE (R-S.C.), who with Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) has attached identical amendments to spending bills that would change the quorum requirement.

They would allow the Ex-Im Bank to operate for up to three years with only two board members, instead of three.

The bank’s long-term future hinges on whether President-elect Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden adds to vote margin over Trump after Milwaukee County recount Krebs says allegations of foreign interference in 2020 election 'farcical'  Republicans ready to become deficit hawks again under a President Biden MORE and a Republican Congress, which has expressed mixed feelings about the bank’s business dealings, see a future for it.

The more than 80-year-old bank helps U.S. exporters sell their goods overseas by providing loans to foreign buyers. 

Graham said Trump seems to be “very open-minded on issues like this” and that he hopes Trump will understand that as long as China, France, Germany, Great Britain and Canada have similar banks, “that if we shut ours down we’re going to lose American jobs because we can’t compete fairly in the developing world.”

During the campaign, Trump expressed opposition to Ex-Im, saying it only benefits politicians and a few companies and that the U.S. could “do well without it.”

The Ex-Im Bank faces opposition off Capitol Hill from dozens of conservative groups that say it is an example of “corporate cronyism.”

Another problem is incoming Senate Banking Committee Chairman Mike CrapoMichael (Mike) Dean CrapoMnuchin to put 5B in COVID-19 relief funds beyond successor's reach Democrats accuse Mnuchin of sabotaging economy in dispute with Fed Shelton's Fed nomination on knife's edge amid coronavirus-fueled absences MORE (R-Idaho) has voted against the bank in the past and said it is unnecessary.

Graham, who has fiercely criticized Trump for much of the last year, is convinced that Ex-Im supporters have a good argument to make to Trump.

“If I ever talk to the Trump administration, which I’m sure I will, I’m going to tell them about 500 jobs that left the Greenville, S.C., GE plant to go to France because GE could not get Ex-Im financing for a deal in the Mideast,” Graham said.

“I think, given what I’ve heard from Donald Trump, that he’s going to make sure that American companies are not losing market share to overseas competitors and unilaterally disarming. At least I hope that’s what he’ll do,” he said. 

The chances that Graham or Dent will win anything in the lame-duck session are slim.

With Trump’s White House win, the Republican Congress plans to approve a short-term funding bill to keep the government running through March.

This would allow the next Congress to negotiate with Trump over appropriations.

Given the push for the short-term spending measure, Graham and Dent’s measures are likely dead, at least for now, though business groups — including the Business Roundtable and National Association of Manufacturers — are trying to get the language into the stopgap measure. 

“The Ex-Im Bank remains a priority trading tool for manufacturers of all sizes and we are doing everything we can to get this issue fixed during this next lame-duck period,” said Linda Dempsey, vice president of international economic affairs at NAM.

“We’ve got small manufacturers who have big deals that can’t get approved and that’s hurting jobs, especially in the Midwest and the East,” she said. 

“We continue to urge Congress to act this year so the U.S. Export-Import Bank can fully operate and review transactions more than $10 million, which would support U.S. exports, economic growth and jobs,” said David Thomas, vice president for trade policy at Business Roundtable.