WASHINGTON May 20 Republicans must get behind a
push to scrap the U.S. Export-Import Bank when its charter comes
up for renewal later this year to end handouts to big business,
a senior lawmaker said on Tuesday.
"Today I call upon every Republican in Congress to let Ex-Im
expire. Let the American taxpayers exit Ex-Im once and for all,"
Republican Representative Jeb Hensarling said in a speech at the
conservative Heritage Foundation.
"Its demise would clearly be one of the few achievable
victories for the Main Street competitive economy left in this
Congress. I believe it is a defining issue for our party and our
Hensarling called for a reform of the tax code as well as
phasing out subsidies to farmers and federal housing programs,
but most of his comments were focused on the Ex-Im Bank.
His opposition could be a hurdle to renewing the bank's
charter because the Texas lawmaker chairs the House Financial
Services Committee, which has jurisdiction over Ex-Im and would
normally be responsible for drafting legislation to extend its
operations past the current expiry date of Sept. 30.
Both the House of Representatives and the Senate should vote
on extending the charter.
The Export-Import Bank was established 80 years ago to help
finance exports of U.S. goods and services. It backed $37.4
billion in exports in 2013.
Although the bank had strong support in Congress when its
charter was last up for renewal, its business supporters worry
about the influence wielded by Hensarling, who has been touted
as a possible candidate for a Republican leadership position
after November's midterm elections.
He declined to directly address that issue on Tuesday,
saying he did not rule out any options but would be happy to
return as committee chairman.
Ex-Im, which returned a profit to Treasury last year, has
urged Congress to extend its lending limit by $20 billion to
$160 billion and allow it to operate for five more years.
Almost 20 percent of new lending in 2013 was to small
businesses, although most support is for big projects such as
aircraft, which account for nearly half outstanding loans.
Boeing Chief Operating Officer Dennis Muilenburg said last
month the bank's financing helped offset subsidies and credit
financing provided to foreign competitors.
Companies including Caterpillar and General Electric
also rely on Ex-Im financing to make sales in export
markets where commercial lending is scarce, and manufacturers
warn that closing the bank would send jobs overseas.
"In a fiercely competitive global economy, Ex-Im Bank
empowers American businesses to tackle new markets, grow through
exports and create new U.S. jobs," Ex-Im Bank spokesman Matt
Right-leaning think tank American Action Forum recommended
on Tuesday scaling back Ex-Im's lending cap and scrapping
quotas on lending, such as a 10 percent share of new loans for
renewable energy projects.
(Reporting by Krista Hughes; Additional reporting by Susan
Cornwell; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)