President Barack Obama on Wednesday urged lawmakers to renew the charter for the U.S. Export-Import Bank before leaving for an August break, saying small and large businesses alike have been hurt by the lapse in new loan guarantees and trade insurance.
If Congress fails to reauthorize of the Ex-Im Bank, the United States would be the only advanced country to leave companies without export finance assistance, Obama said.
The Democratic president met at the White House with the owners of a quiche maker, an organic coffee roaster, a music-stand manufacturer and other small companies whose travails he said deserve urgent attention.
“I know it’s not as interesting as some of the other issues, and Donald Trump, and all that stuff,” said Obama, referring to Trump’s bid to be the Republican candidate for president.
“But I’ll tell you what: this is actually something that matters to people on the ground,” he said.
The 81-year-old Ex-Im Bank saw its charter lapse after conservatives in Congress cast it as a promoter of “crony capitalism” for multinationals such as Boeing Co and General Electric Co.
At the meeting, Air Tractor said it could drop a quarter of its 265 jobs making crop dusters in the three-stoplight West Texas town of Olney.
“We’re a small business in a small town,” David Ickert, Air Tractor’s vice president of finance, told reporters. “We don’t really understand why we’re in this position.”
“The bank is not a welfare entity. We all pay large amounts of money to use the bank. Glad to do it,” Ickert said.
A renewal of the bank’s charter could hitch a ride this month on an unrelated transportation funding bill, but not if Republican opponents like Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio can stop it.
“We need to get through the next five legislative days and not have Ex-Im attached to anything,” Jordan said.
Major differences between the House and Senate versions of the highway bill could delay an Ex-Im revival. The bank’s next chance would be a major government funding measure needed by Sept. 30, the start of the new fiscal year and the date Ex-Im’s operating budget runs out.
Republican Representative Ann Wagner of Missouri, a state with a large Boeing presence and 91 Boeing suppliers, said she hopes the charter will be revived when lawmakers return in the fall.
“There are 79 countries that have that advantage and we cannot disarm unilaterally,” Wagner said in an interview. (Reporting by Roberta Rampton; Additional reporting by Dave Lawder.)