Efforts to Reauthorize Ex-Im Bank Fail in Senate

March 21, 2012

On Tuesday, an amendment was offered by Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) tothe Jump-Start Our Business Start-ups Act (H.R. 3606 or JOBS Act), which would reauthorize the Export-Import Bank of the U.S. (Ex-Im Bank) through September 30, 2015, and increases the cap—to $140 billion—on its lending authority.

Unfortunately, the amendment failed 55 to 44 to get the 60 votes necessary for passage, as Republicans—at the advice of Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)—blocked cloture on the Cantwell-Johnson-Graham-Shelby amendment, thus killing the effort to reauthorize Ex-Im Bank through the JOBS bill. Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Dean Heller (Nev.) and Scott Brown (Mass.) were the three Republicans who broke rank and voted for cloture.

The Senate Banking Committee approved this bipartisan reauthorization effort by voice vote last fall, but unfortunately, in December, Congress approved only a six-month extension through May 31 and Ex-Im is now expected to reach its existing lending cap of $100 billion before that expiration date.

The Ex-Im Bank is an independent federal agency that helps create and maintain U.S. jobs by filling gaps in private export financing at no cost to American taxpayers. The Bank provides a variety of financing mechanisms, including working capital guarantees, export-credit insurance, and financing to help foreign buyers purchase U.S. goods and services.

For Fiscal Year 2011, Ex-Im supported an estimated $41 billion in export sales, and 290,000 U.S. jobs at over 3,600 companies. Ex-Im Bank also set a record on its support of small business at $6 billion—an increase of more than 20 percent since 2010. Not only does Ex-Im Bank enhance U.S. manufacturing competitiveness in a rapidly expanding global marketplace, but it does so at no cost to American taxpayers. In fact, the Congressional Budget Office recently concluded that extending the authority of Ex-Im Bank through 2015 would reduce the deficit by $900 million over five years.

Although many Senate Democrats argued that attaching Ex-Im to the House-passed JOBS Act was the quickest way of reauthorizing the agency, Republicans in both the House and Senate repeatedly called on Senate leaders to simply take up the JOBS Act and expressed concerns with the overall amendment process. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) called inclusion of Ex-Im Bank reauthorization in the debate a distraction. Cantor instead supports a different approach to Ex-Im, one that would reauthorize the bank for one year, and set a loan limit of $113 million, a solution he hopes to consider on the House floor by the end of this month.

The Obama administration wants Congress to quickly renew the Bank’s charter and increase its lending cap as part of a broader plan to double exports in the next three years. However, the effort has stalled in the past few months over disagreements about the size of the lending cap, as demonstrated by the differences in the Senate and House versions.

Please click here for summaries of how small buisnesses rely on Ex-Im Bank.

Please click here for the latest update on the JOBS Act.