Washington senators push to keep Ex-Im Bank

By Dan Catchpole Herald Writer

WASHINGTON — Washington’s U.S. Senators — Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray — have joined onto proposed legislation to give the U.S. Export-Import Bank another five years of life.

The bill is a modified version of one introduced earlier in the month by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Mark Kirk (R-IL). This iteration is identical except that it cuts out a section that undid restrictions on the bank financing related to coal-fired power plants overseas.

The Ex-Im Bank finances sales of U.S. goods and services to foreign buyers. Boeing is among its biggest beneficiaries, so much so that critics call it Boeing’s Bank.

The bank’s authorization ends Sept. 30, and significant opposition from critics in the House of Representatives have thrown its future into doubt.

Critics say it is essentially subsidies for corporations, puts taxpayers on the hook to benefit big shareholders and distorts markets.

Supporters say that the bank simply levels the playing field — as most large exporting countries have similar institutions — and that it pays its own way due to interest collected on loans to foreign buyers.

The proposed legislation would reauthorize the Ex-Im for five years, and gradually increase its spending authority over four years from $140 billion to $160 billion. It tries to allay criticism of the bank by requiring it to report to Congress, limiting its loan loss ratio and authorizing a study by the Government Accountability Office to determine the risk to taxpayers for the bank’s medium-term programs.

“From building airplanes to growing apples, Washington state is home to many world-class industries, and the Export-Import Bank helps those industries sell their products in markets all around the world and create jobs here at home,” Murray said in a news release.

The Ex-Im Bank was the subject Thursday morning of a Senate Aviation Subcommittee hearing led by Cantwell.

Kirk stopped by to call for its reauthorization, saying that it will help the American aerospace industry ward off competition overseas.

Marc Allen, president of Boeing Capital Corp., also dropped in to talk about the need for the Ex-Im Bank.

The subcommittee also heard testimony about streamlining the Federal Aviation Administration’s certification process to cut costs and keep up with demand.

Dan Catchpole: 425-339-3454; dcatchpole@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @dcatchpole.