The millions of dollars of corporate lobbying for reauthorization of the U.S. Export-Import (Ex-Im) Bank seems to have finally paid off. Despite the fact that taxpayers won a victory when Congress allowed the beleaguered, corruption-laden bank to expire on June 30, a group of weak-willed Republicans, led by Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-Tenn.), joined with Democrats and used a little known and rarely used tool called a “discharge petition” to resurrect the Bank from the dead. The House of Representatives has abandoned common sense as Boeing’s Bank may be coming back.
The discharge petition circumvented the authority of the House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), whose committee had jurisdiction over the bill and rightfully decided earlier this summer to let the Bank expire. The discharge petition allowed the bill to come directly to the House floor for a vote. Thanks to this underhanded political maneuvering, the House voted to reauthorize the bank’s charter Tuesday.
This maneuvering is outside of general order and demonstrates a break with usual decorum within the Republican Party. Rep. Hensarling responded with disappointment to the move. “Signing a discharge petition sets a very serious, very dangerous precedent for our Republican majority that goes far beyond Ex-Im. At a time when our Republican conference is divided, this will divide us even further,” he told reporters. Historically, despite the 107 attempts that have been lodged over the past decade and a half, only two bills have been successfully discharged from committee. Unfortunately, it appears that the only time the country can get some congressional consensus is to support corporate welfare. It is clear that money, or aggressive lobbying, can buy everything.
The Ex-Im Bank was created in the 1930s as a New Deal-era agency in order to subsidize American exports abroad. As part of its own mission statement, the Bank was intended only to provide loans to companies who would otherwise struggle to find private financing elsewhere. Fortune 50 companies like Boeing, General Electric and Caterpillar should NOT qualify as such. Except that they do. Between 2007 and 2013, Ex-Im subsidized a staggering $66.7 billion in sales by Boeing, $8.3 billion for General Electric and $4.9 billion for Caterpillar and its subsidiary. Less than 20 percent of the Bank’s financing benefits small businesses, and 98 percent of American exports don’t receive credit support from Ex-Im. And yet those companies manage to get along just fine.
But the Bank has sure been lucrative for big business, lobbyists and politicians. Boeing has spent upwards of $69 million since 2012 lobbying for the reauthorization of Ex-Im. Top Boeing exec Tim Neale admits, “We have been lobbying a lot on this because it’s a very important issue for us.” Clearly. As the fight wound up this year, from April 1 to June 30, the total lobbying for Ex-Im topped $46.9 million on lobbying. This was over the course of two months. Corporate cronyism at its finest.
The ball is now in the Senate’s court. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has promised he would stand firm and not bring a standalone bill to reauthorize the bank to the floor, and he himself opposes Ex-Im. The question is whether he too will acquiesce to big business and lobbyists, or if will he support taxpayers and stand firm in stopping corporate welfare. Let’s hope he stands firm on his principles, and doesn’t bring a bill to the floor to revive the Export-Import Bank back from the dead.