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Opinion Export-Import Bank chairman Fred Hochberg on jobs, ‘good feet’ and congressional hurdles

Fred Hochberg in 2013. (Photo by Jeffrey MacMillan)

My opening question for Fred Hochberg was really quite simple: “Okay. You’re the chairman of the Export-Import Bank. What on earth is that?”

In the 12th episode of “Cape Up,” Hochberg explains that the federal bank does two things. First, it provides a federal guarantee for financing to companies of all sizes operating in markets where “credit isn’t available” from private-sector banks. Second, the bank helps to create “a level playing field” for U.S. exporters (and their workers) by providing financing necessary to compete with foreign companies whose national governments already give them a leg up by providing financing for export sales.


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And, yet, Congress has thrown up two big roadblocks. Ex-Im Bank cleared the first hurdle last December when the agency was reauthorized after its legal authority “lapsed for five months and four days, not that I was counting every single day,” Hochberg said. But it has yet to clear the second one. The five-person board that oversees the Ex-Im Bank needs a quorum of three members to approve any deal valued at more than $10 million. Right now, there are only two, and the Republican-controlled Congress refuses to confirm the Republican nominated to the post by President Obama.

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But it wasn’t all business between Hochberg and me. We talked about his being one of the highest-ranking openly gay members of the Obama administration, how things have changed for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Americans and how he uses his travel to meet with LGBT people and groups at home and abroad. And you can’t talk to Hochberg without talking about his late mother, catalogue queen Lillian Vernon. Listen to the podcast to find out the advice she gave him growing up that he still uses today, and subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher.

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