WASHINGTON -- The Export-Import Bank is dead. Long live the Export-Import Bank.
The relatively obscure government-run bank, which issues loans to foreign entities looking to buy American goods, was allowed to expire first thing Wednesday morning. Congress, so far, has taken little effort to even consider renewing the bank as conservatives in the House banded together to kill it.
But that doesn’t mean that the bank will close its doors and send all employees home on Wednesday. The Ex-Im Bank will continue to administer all of the loans it has already issued -- which means they could continue to exist for another decade. And while the deadline lapsed for renewal while lawmakers were away from Washington for the Fourth of July week recess, there is still a strong chance Congress could reauthorize it.
Without authorization from Congress, however, the bank cannot issue any new loans. And that means companies who use the bank -- big ones like Boeing and small businesses that handle a range of products -- are left in the lurch until then.
The bank would almost seem innocuous. It’s meant to satisfy two goals: Help American businesses conduct transactions overseas and increase goodwill in developing parts of the world by helping poorer nations obtain vital items like farming equipment. Plus, the bank doesn’t cost taxpayers anything. It operates using the fees it collects from issuing loans. In the last fiscal year, the bank had a surplus of $675 million. And in the last decade, it has sent $6.9 billion in surplus to help lower the nation’s deficit.
But the bank drew the ire of a number of conservative and tea party groups who spent the last few years working to erode support for the bank in Congress. That opposition has been most recently led by Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, chairman of the Financial Services Committee. With the power of the chair, Hensarling has refused to bring a bill that would reauthorize the bank -- or even one that would kill it -- up for a vote.
“Ex-Im is not only corporate welfare, it is corporate welfare for foreign companies and countries,” Hensarling said, in a statement praising the expiration of the bank. “There’s no doubt some U.S. companies receive a benefit from Ex-Im, but there’s also no doubt Ex-Im hurts other companies and their workers.”
Congress has grown accustomed to blowing past deadlines. It’s become an almost regular occurrence. So it’s no guarantee that just because this deadline has lapsed that the bank is dead for good. House Speaker John Boehner remains on board with renewing the bank, which means he could circumvent the conservatives and allow a vote. Reauthorization could also get attached to another piece of legislation, like the Highway Trust Fund Bill, which expires at the end of the month.
Plus, if put on the House floor, reauthorization would likely pass easily with all of the chamber’s Democrats supporting it. House Democrats have been using a procedural motion to try to force a vote on reauthorization -- a tactic that almost never produces the desired outcome.
“Instead of standing with American manufacturers, small businesses, and workers trying to export their goods overseas, the Republican Congress is trying to shut down the Export-Import Bank,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said in a statement. “Just since 2007, the Bank has created or sustained 1.5 million American jobs at no cost to taxpayers. Yet, Republicans voted four times in recent months to block an extension of the Bank’s charter.”