Ex-Im Bank Expires As Business Lobby Continues to Push for Renewal

Senate majority leader says a reauthorization bill will likely pass, but opponents hold out hope

June 30, 2015

Funding for the U.S. Export-Import Bank expires at midnight, but efforts by conservative members of Congress to seal the agency’s fate once and for all are not done yet.

Since Congress failed to act on a funding bill for the bank, which finances the purchases of U.S. exports by foreign governments and corporations, appropriations for the bank have run out. But that doesn’t mean an end to its subsidies.

Ex-Im funding is already secured through September, meaning it can disburse roughly $112 billion in financing already committed. By the time that money runs out, the bank could have a new lease on life.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) says he opposes the bank, but will give his colleagues the chance to vote on its survival.

"Looks to me like they have the votes, and I'm going to give them the opportunity," he told the Associated Press on Monday.

Legislation resurrecting the bank will likely be tied to a bill authorizing funding for highway and infrastructure projects, according to a senior Senate Republican aide, who agreed with McConnell’s assessment that such legislation would pass.

"Proponents of Ex-Im are eyeing Highways as the likeliest vehicle for an amendment," the aide said. "They showed on Defense Authorization they have the votes to clear a filibuster," referring to legislation that authorized $612 billion in Pentagon spending despite a White House veto threat.

Ex-Im opponents are holding out hope that a combination of procedural maneuvers by their allies and infighting among their opponents might scuttle a highway bill with Ex-Im reauthorization attached.

"There’s all sorts of procedural things you can do to make it no slam dunk that it gets passed," said Andy Roth, the vice president of government affairs for the Club for Growth, a leading Ex-Im opponent.

It is not clear at this point which senator, if any, would attempt to block the legislation. While McConnell is confident that a filibuster could be overridden, Roth sees potential divisions among the bank’s supporters.

"The big question mark for me is if supporters of the bank can even come together to agree on a reauthorization bill," he said.

Questions that might hinder the effort include the length of reauthorization and the inclusion of language designed to court centrist members of both parties, which could turn off otherwise reliable Ex-Im supporters.

Legislation introduced in March by Sen. Mark Kirk (R., Ill.), and cosponsored by seven other senators—three Republicans and four Democrats—would reauthorize the bank through September 2019. It also includes language that would strip prohibitions on Ex-Im funding for coal projects.

The White House is vocally opposed to that language, adding another level of tension among political forces pushing for Ex-Im reauthorization. Including the coal language could also alienate liberal Democrats.

"Far from it would I consider [the highway bill route] a slam dunk for Ex-Im supporters," Roth said.

For now, attention turns to the Senate, where conservative groups are eyeing McConnell warily.

"If he wants to rebuke the majority of his conference and help Barack Obama save the bank, that is his decision," said Don Holler, communications director for the conservative Heritage Action for America.

"It is the wrong decision—a decision that makes it harder for the party to campaign against corporate welfare—but it is his to make. "