Governors call on Congress to reauthorize Export-Import Bank


Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) supports reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank (Charlie Neibergall/AP)

The Export-Import Bank is the subject of the latest battle between business and conservative factions within the House Republican Conference, two sides that take dramatically different views on the bank’s value. But at least 15 Republican governors — including at least one considering a run for president — are siding with business interests in urging Congress to reauthorize the bank.

In a letter to House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) and minority leaders Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) sent Tuesday, a group of 29 governors, including nine Republicans, urged Congress to reauthorize the bank ahead of a Sept. 30 deadline.

Business interests, led by the Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers, also want to extend the Export-Import Bank’s life. The bank provides billions in financing for overseas corporations to buy American goods, which in turn creates hundreds of thousands of jobs in the U.S. In their letter, governors said the bank helped companies in their states.

But conservative factions say the bank is a boondoggle that uses taxpayer dollars to support big business. Conservative radio hosts have made the bank’s demise a casus belli, and Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Tex.), chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, has made deauthorizing the bank a key priority.

Republican governors Brian Sandoval (Nev.), Susana Martinez (New Mexico), Mary Fallin (Okla.) and  Jan Brewer (Ariz.) were among the nine Republicans to sign the group letter.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) sent her own letter earlier this month, along with Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Tim Scott (R-S.C.). Boeing, which has a major plant in Charleston, S.C., is one of the top recipients of Export-Import Bank aid; Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D), who runs a state with tens of thousands of Boeing employees, was the lead signer of Tuesday’s letter to Congress.

And in June, Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), considering a second run for the White House, sent his own letter to congressional leaders urging them to extend the life of the bank. The Export-Import Bank has agreed to finance $24 billion in exports from Texas alone between 2007 and 2014, according to the bank’s data.

“The Ex-Im Bank’s services are essential in helping small and medium-sized Texas businesses to thrive,” Perry wrote. “Failure to reauthorize the agency’s operations could place Texas and many U.S. companies at a serious competitive disadvantage in the global marketplace.”

Some observers interpreted the reelection loss last month of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), an Ex-Im supporter, as a defeat for the bank. After Cantor’s loss, House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who will take over as majority leader at the end of this month, said he favored closing down the bank, reversing a position he took in 2012.

Several other Republican governors considering White House bids have stepped carefully around the political minefield the reauthorization fight has become. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence and Ohio Gov. John Kasich have remained silent about the bank.

As chairman of the House Budget Committee in 1995, Kasich rejected a proposal from two fellow Republicans to deauthorize the bank.

Most Democrats support reauthorizing the bank beyond Sept. 30. The Senate has not acted on reauthorization this year, and Reid has scheduled meetings with fellow Democrats over a proposal to extend the bank’s life for another five years. Sticking points remain over a proposal from Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) to expand the number of countries where the bank can authorize financing for coal-fired power plants.

Reid Wilson covers state politics and policy for the Washington Post's GovBeat blog. He's a former editor in chief of The Hotline, the premier tip sheet on campaigns and elections, and he's a complete political junkie.
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