Senate Democrats are hoping to drive a wedge between Capitol Hill Republicans by attaching a contentious measure to reauthorize the Export-Import (ExIm) Bank to a popular jobs bill that passed the House last week by a wide margin.
“Their plan isn’t to work together to make it easier to create jobs, but to look for ways to make it easier to keep their own,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R –Ky.).
“They want to pick a fight rather than get this bill to the president’s desk. Then use it for campaign ads in the run-up to the November elections,” McConnell said.
The Hill Wednesday reported that Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) hopes to divide tea party conservatives from other Republicans by highlighting ideological splits within the party.
“We know that there are divisions in the House Republican caucus on ExIm Bank and we feel very badly about that because there is virtual unanimity in our caucus and large support on (the) Republican side here in the Senate,” The Hill quotes Schumer as saying.
“We do know there are some hard on the right who say we should not fund the bank or greatly cut the funding or put mechanisms in place that would make it basically unworkable,” Schumer said.
Deep divisions within the Republican Party were highlighted last year during disagreements to increase the debt ceiling limit and extending Social Security payroll tax.
Already the two sides are taking shape in the ExIm fight: Republicans backing the Democrat measure include Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Richard Shelby of Alabama and Mark Kirk of Illinois.
“In South Carolina, we have a particular interest in this issue as the bank is used to finance textile exports as well as every Boeing 787 that rolls out of the brand new, state-of-the-art assembly line this year in North Charleston,” Graham said.
Democrats say allowing the charter to expire would be a crippling blow to the export economy and want to raise its’ $100 billion lending limit to $140 billion to keep the agency operational for four years.
Republicans who say the bank has “systematic failures” and costs American jobs include Sens. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, Charles Grassley of Iowa, Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, Mike Lee of Utah, and Rand Paul of Kentucky.
“According to the Government Accountability Office, ExIm is processing more than 90 percent of its loan and guarantee applications without conducting a congressionally required review of any serious adverse effects of the loan or guarantee,” the Republicans wrote in a Feb. 6 letter to Senate leaders.
“These actions are concerning and detrimental to U.S. employment and we therefore request any action on the bill be delayed until such time that the bank’s documented failures can be remedied,” the Senators said.
The Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act overwhelmingly passed the House last Thursday on a vote of 290 to 23, and President Barack Obama pledged to sign the measure as soon as the Senate acted on it.
The bill would help small businesses create more jobs by cutting regulations to raise more capital, spur the growth of startups and pave the way for more small scale businesses to go public.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) initially blocked Republicans from bringing the JOBS Act up for a vote after it passed the House, now “they’re trying to figure out ways to make this overwhelmingly bipartisan bill controversial,” McConnell said.
House Republicans say that attempting to combine the bank reauthorization will needlessly delay the JOBS Act.
“Senate Democrats wouldn’t do this if they were actually concerned about jobs,” said Brian Straessle, spokesman for the Republican Study Committee.
“Why risk derailing a no-brainer jobs bill by larding it up with a completely unrelated expansion of a government agency many people don’t think should exist in the first place?” Straessle said.
Added Laena Fallon, spokeswoman for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R –Va.); “It is unfortunate that Leader Reid is choosing to needlessly delay the JOBS bill by adding unrelated provisions. The Senate should take up the House version and send it to the president’s desk without delay.”
“With regard to the Export-Import Bank, the House continues to work toward a bipartisan solution that will include reforms and we hope to consider it on the floor by the end of March,” Fallon said.
Cantor is suggesting that financing exports should be phased out, and that a one-time increase of authorized loans be set at $113 billion.
The Export-Import Bank was created in 1934 to help American businesses when private lending was not available to sell their products globally.
Boeing is a major exporter and is a top beneficiary of the bank loans, which in the last three years supported the sale of nearly 500 of its airplanes abroad.
Reid said the Senate measure is important for the economy as a whole as well as the airline industry.
“It’s an important piece of legislation and I hope that we can add that to the small business jobs bill,” Reid said. “If we can’t, I understand that but it would be a shame to miss this opportunity.”
The bank reauthorization amendment is scheduled for a vote Tuesday.
The Club for Growth, which calls it a corporate welfare slush fund for the “Federal Bank of Boeing,” opposes it.
“Boeing spent over $12 million lobbying Congress last year, and in return, is getting billions of dollars in Export-Import Bank financing,” the club said in a statement.
Heritage Action for America is also urging Republicans to vote against the measure and says that when exports are subsidized, domestic companies face a disadvantage that results in job losses domestically.