By Jack Torry
WASHINGTON – In a bipartisan rebuke of Capitol Hill’s most conservative Republicans, the U.S. House Tuesday retained a federal agency which U.S. companies such as GE Aviation of Cincinnati say helps them export their goods.
By an overwhelming vote of 313-to-118, the House re-authorized the operations of the U.S. Export-Import Bank, an agency created in the 1930s and which provides credits and loan guarantees to foreign companies buying U.S. products or to American banks financing those sales.
Although a sizable majority of House members favored retaining the bank, a small number of conservatives such as Republican Jim Jordan of Urbana had prevented the full House from holding a floor vote earlier this summer to re-authorize the bank.
Earlier this month, however, a bipartisan coalition employed a rare parliamentary maneuver and rounded up the signatures of 218 House members to force a floor vote. The Senate needs to approve the same bill before the bank can resume operations.
Republican Mike Turner of Dayton was among the 127 Republicans who voted to keep the bank while Jordan and Republicans Brad Wenstrup of Cincinnati and Steve Chabot of Cincinnati were among the 117 Republicans who voted against it. By contrast, 186 Democrats supported the bank.
Although the bank has been supported by Republican and Democratic presidents throughout its 81 years of existence and has been re-authorized 16 times throughout its history by Congress, this year a number of arch conservatives banded together to kill the agency.
Those conservatives, who included the wealthy Koch brothers of Texas and the Heritage Foundation Action Fund in Washington, argued that the bank provided unneeded money to large companies such as GE and Boeing Aircraft
“This is what’s wrong with Washington: big corporations cozy up to big government and America’s taxpayers foot the bill,” Jordan said. “This is what my colleagues and I came here to stop, and is precisely the kind of thing that Americans hate about this town.”
The conservative opposition horrifiedAmerican companies fought hard for the reauthorization, arguing they would lose business without the loan guarantees and credits provided by the agency. Between 2007 and 2014, more than 360 Ohio companies used credit guarantees provided by the bank to export $3 billion worth of products.
The Business Roundtable, an organization made up of the chief executive officers of some of the country’s largest companies, said “since Congress allowed the bank’s authority to lapse in July, U.S. companies — large and small — have not been able to compete on a level playing field with foreign competitors, which have continued to receive significant financing from export credit agencies around the world.”