- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 22, 2015

President Obama on Wednesday took Congress to task and called for the immediate reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank, which has become a symbol in a larger ideological fight on Capitol Hill.

The bank, which finances the sale of American exports to overseas buyers, lapsed on June 30, the first time the institution — better known as the Ex-Im Bank — ceased operations in its 81-year history. Some Republicans claim the bank is essentially corporate welfare, helping giant companies sell products abroad.

But Mr. Obama and other supporters of the Ex-Im Bank say it is small American businesses that benefit the most.

“From coast to coast, people are being affected by this. We’ve heard stories from these companies right now that orders are on hold, business is in danger, potentially expansions will stall, fewer employees will be hired if we do not get this done. So we need to get this done,” Mr. Obama told reporters after a White House meeting with small-business owners.

“We can’t have American workers losing jobs because Congress doesn’t act or because of some ideological arguments that don’t make any sense, don’t match up with the facts,” he said.

The bank has become a key sticking point in the legislative fight over federal highway funding. The House already has passed a highway funding bill that does not include renewal of the Ex-Im Bank, and the Senate currently is working on its own highway bill.

SEE ALSO: Mitch McConnell’s new highway bill is already on the skids with Dems and GOP

The White House has demanded that a renewal of the bank be included in the final highway bill.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest stopped just short of issuing a veto threat Wednesday, though he made the clear the president “will insist” that reauthorization be included in the broader highway package.

“In this case, what I’m indicating is this — the reauthorization of Ex-Im is a priority of the president’s,” Mr. Earnest told reporters when asked if he was issuing a veto threat.

With the bank’s future now in doubt, conservative critics of the institution are doubling down in the effort to make sure it remains closed forever.

“This is a battle. Do you stand for the rich and powerful who corrupt Washington and use this institution against the American taxpayer, or do you stand with the taxpayer?” Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican and 2016 presidential candidate, said at a recent news conference, flanked by leaders of the Club for Growth, Tea Party Patriots and other bank opponents.

Mr. Cruz went on to pledge to use “any or all procedural tools” to stop the bank’s reauthorization.

Mr. Obama on Wednesday also took direct aim at critics’ contention that the bank costs taxpayers money, saying the Treasury actually turns a profit through the repayment of loans.

“This should be a no-brainer,” the president added.

Following the meeting, about a dozen small-business owners also called for reauthorization.

“The funding of the Ex-Im Bank, the defunding of it, has really put at risk probably 1,000 jobs,” said Jim Rutkowski Jr., general manager of Erie, Pennsylvania-based Industrial Sales and Manufacturing. “It’s something we have to have in our tool kit for us to be competitive in the world.”

Congressional Democrats say House Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky should immediately call for votes on a standalone bill reauthorizing the bank.

“Reauthorizing Ex-Im has wide, bipartisan support in both chambers, and it’s time for Speaker Boehner and Leader McConnell to listen to their colleagues and the American people and hold a vote on a reauthorization bill. Our businesses and our economy cannot afford to have Congress delay any longer,” said Sen. Chris Coons, Delaware Democrat.



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