While perhaps not cause for Ex-Im exhilaration, a congressional committee’s vote last month did ease the minds of those in businesses that depend on the federal Export-Import Bank. The vote also provides a reset in the debate over the bank’s future, which has been in perpetual peril over the past couple of years.
As the official export credit agency of the United States, the bank helps American exporters or foreign buyers that otherwise can’t get financing, and it also works with private banks to guarantee loans.
The bank helps offset similar programs in other countries, many of which offer far more generous assistance than does the American counterpart.
The bank has been around since the 1930s and routinely won reauthorization until 2015, when criticism that the bank engages in corporate welfare held up a reauthorization vote, which finally was approved by Congress.
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But in the meantime, the bank has lacked the quorum needed to fully function and has been unable to approve transactions of more than $10 million.
Into this kerfuffle, President Trump nominated former New Jersey Congressman Scott Garrett for a board seat. That would have enabled a quorum, but with a board member who had favored dismantling the bank when he was in Congress.
Fortunately, in a moment of bipartisan clarity, the Senate Banking Committee voted 13-10 to reject Garrett, while sending the names of four other nominees for the bank board to the full Senate. His nomination drew opposition from leading business groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers.
His rejection drew sighs of relief from Yakima Valley businesses that rely on the bank.
Critics of corporate welfare have made much of aircraft behemoth Boeing being Ex-Im’s largest customer.
But the debate highlighted the bank’s involvement in much smaller companies, including Yakima’s Manhasset Specialty Co., one of more than a dozen Yakima Valley companies that have used the bank. Manhasset has credited the Ex-Im Bank for securing business with customers in more than 20 countries, including China.
President Trump rode skepticism about the country’s trade practices into office, but perhaps this vote will open the eyes of the administration to the commerce — and jobs — that the Export-Im Bank has helped create.
It’s not just a bone to Boeing; it is a tool that small businesses have used to create jobs here in the Yakima Valley. The Senate panel’s vote opens the door to a new nominee who can help the bank carry out its mission effectively and efficiently.