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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid looks at a screen showing a clock counting down to a government shutdown, at a news conference with fellow Democrats Sens. Chuck Schumer, Barbara Mikulski and Dick Durbin after the Senate voted to pass a spending bill in an attempt to avoid the shutdown, sending the issue back to the House of Representatives, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington Sept. 27, 2013. (REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst) Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid looks at a screen showing a clock counting down to a government shutdown, at a news conference with fellow Democrats Sens. Chuck Schumer, Barbara Mikulski and Dick Durbin after the Senate voted to pass a spending bill in an attempt to avoid the shutdown, sending the issue back to the House of Representatives, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington Sept. 27, 2013. (REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)  

Democrats Rally Support for Export-Import Bank

Senate Democrats are going on the offensive to build support for reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank.

In a conference call with members of the press on Tuesday, Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell, New York Sen. Charles Schumer and North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp made the case that the bank plays a crucial role in the economy by promoting American manufacturing and stimulating domestic job growth. (RELATED: Don’t Kill the Ex-Im Bank, Expand It)

Despite the fact that an overwhelming preponderance of the bank’s loan guarantees have gone to subsidize the exports of some of the country’s largest companies — in 2012, for instance, 82 percent of loan guarantees went to customers of Boeing — the call focused heavily on the ways that the bank supports small businesses.

Cantwell began by asserting that “3,400 small businesses used the Ex-Im Bank last year… and 200,000 jobs were supported” because the bank “fills a void in the private sector, where financing is not available.”

Asked for her response to criticisms that the bank primarily helps large companies, Cantwell argued, “90 percent of Ex-Im transactions involve small businesses” and that “U.S. manufacturers have supply chains that consist of thousands of small businesses, all of whom benefit from Ex-Im loans” that stimulate exports.

Also contributing to the call were several business leaders, who explained how the Export-Import Bank has benefited their companies. Among these was Rick Burke of Measurement Technology Northwest, who claimed that his company currently has “over $2 million in X-M support” and is “expecting employment to grow by 15 percent, due entirely to growth in international sales” this year.

Jody Milanese, vice president of government relations for the National Small Business Association, said, “Getting paid is a major concern for exporters,” so much so that 69 percent of American exporters refuse to provide goods or services until after payments are processed.

Milanese argued the Export-Import Bank removes this obstacle by providing insurance against both commercial and political risks, which “helps small businesses compete in a global marketplace.”

Historically, renewing the Ex-Im Bank’s charter has not been a controversial issue — most of the previous 16 reauthorizations have passed on a voice vote with strong bipartisan support — but growing opposition to business subsidies among Republicans has led several prominent party leaders, including House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling, to come out against reauthorization of the bank.

According to Hensarling, the bank is just another example of “crony capitalism” that undermines the economy by directing its support toward politically well-connected companies.

Republicans are not unanimous on the issue, though, and 41 have signed a letter expressing support for reauthorization of the bank’s charter. If such a bill reaches the floor in the House, those 41 Republicans are more than enough to assure passage if the Democrats vote yes. (RELATED: “GOP: Just Say No to Ex-Im)

Yet it remains an open question whether the bill will be called for a vote, since Speaker of the House John Boehner has so far declined to take a position. Schumer seemed to take Boehner’s equivocation as a cause for optimism, saying, “There is more support for the bill among Republicans in the Senate, so if we can put together a bipartisan majority in the Senate, it might put pressure on the House” to bring the bill to a vote.

Schumer went on to predict, “If Boehner allows the reauthorization bill to come to the floor, it will pass with support from both parties.”

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