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Congress can officially pencil another issue into a full June calendar – reauthorizing the U.S. Export-Import Bank. Senator McConnell confirmed last week that he will bring Ex-Im reauthorization to the floor before the end of June as part of his deal to pass the fast-track trade bill on Friday.
The U.S. Export-Import Bank, an 80-year old entity that gives a majority of its loans and loan guarantees to a small number of well-connected corporations, is set to expire on June 30th. Given the bank’s market-distorting function, and given its proven history of cronyism and corruption, the best and easiest thing Congress could do is to simply let its charter expire.
Nearly every group in the conservative movement has asked for Congress to end Ex-Im. They’ve been joined by dozens of lawmakers, including the formal support of the Freedom Caucus and the Republican Study Committee in the House, and several conservative champions, such as Ted Cruz and Mike Lee, in the Senate.
Unfortunately, there is a strong contingent in Congress that is listening to the Ex-Im Bank’s allies on K Street instead. Groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have spent millions of dollars on lobbying to defend Ex-Im. These groups claim that the bank’s expiration will devastate U.S. small businesses, despite the fact that only a tiny fraction of American small businesses receive any benefit from Ex-Im.
With more and more information on the Ex-Im Bank’s function as a corporate welfare fund becoming public, many Members of Congress have naturally proved increasingly hesitant to express support for it. Thus, one tactic to watch out for is attaching Ex-Im to another bill that is considered “must-pass.” During last week’s Senate negotiations on the trade bill, the Senate’s #2 Republican, John Cornyn, said of attaching Ex-Im that “I think there’s some desire to do it, but the opportunities appear to be waning.”
What opportunities are waning? If the Senate wants to reauthorize Ex-Im it still has a month to put it on the floor for a vote. But Members of Congress want the excuse that “well, I couldn’t vote against (insert bill here), so I had no choice but to take Ex-Im along with it.” Memo to Cornyn and the rest of Congress: if you feel like you have to hide your vote for something, you probably shouldn’t support it.
For his part, Speaker of the House John Boehner isn't ruling out a vote on Ex-Im if the Senate passes their bill, promising only that he will allow conservatives amendment votes to reform or shut down the bank.
Despite the upcoming votes, opposition to Ex-Im has never been stronger, and many lawmakers are expressing doubt that the bank will survive past its June 30th sunset date. But to ensure Ex-Im's defeat, lawmakers are going to need to hear from their constituents - you - that it's time for this New Deal corporate welfare fund to be put to pasture.