WASHINGTON — US lawmakers have failed to reauthorise the Export-Import Bank before its Tuesday expiration, a lapse the bank warns will block billions of dollars in assistance to small businesses and cost thousands of American jobs.
With Congress on a week-long Independence Day recess, many who back ExIm railed Monday against a "failure to act" by the Republicans who control the Senate and House of Representatives, while opponents welcomed the shuttering of an institution they decry as a prime example of crony capitalism.
"ExIm supports job growth and helps us compete, but because of Republicans' failure to act, it will shut down tomorrow," said number two House Democrat Steny Hoyer.
Extending the bank, which helps finance American exports to markets abroad when commercial credit is unavailable, has been relatively painless over the past 80 years.
Congress has reauthorised ExIm 16 times with bipartisan support.
The independent federal institution is a money-maker for taxpayers, raking in $675 million after costs, authorising $20.5 billion in financing last year and supporting 164,000 jobs, supporters argue.
But the reauthorisation process became gummed up in partisan feuding in recent months, with Republican leaders sharply split on the path forward.
House Speaker John Boehner has warned there are "thousands of jobs on the line," and he wanted to see a plan drafted in the House Financial Services Committee which would address the bank's expiration.
But committee chairman Jeb Hensarling wants ExIm abolished, saying killing it would mark "a small step toward renewing a competitive free-market economy and arresting the rise of the progressive welfare state and the cronyism connected to it."
Hensarling and others argue that most ExIm funding goes to a handful of corporate giants like Boeing, but supporters say such companies are backed up by thousands of suppliers nationwide.
"Most of the critics don't seem to even understand how exports work," Wendell Maddox, president of Minnesota-based aerospace firm ION Corp, wrote in the St Cloud Times newspaper.
"They say they want to cure our economy, but the medicine they prescribe is actually poison that will kill jobs."
Last week, in a last-gap effort to persuade opponents, ExIm Chairman Fred Hochberg warned that drying up export credit for small businesses would mean "opening our economy up to death by a thousand cuts" – and giving China the upper hand.
"The private sector is Plan A for most exporters," he said. "We're Plan B. Plan C, of course, is China."
The White House has urged Congress to reauthorise ExIm.
The bank is funded through September. Should its charter lapse July 1, it will continue to service its obligations but add no new transactions. — AFP