On Sunday, the Senate voted to attach a revival of the Export-Import Bank to the “must pass” highway funding bill. The move was the fulfillment of a promise Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made to Democrats for their support of Obama’s trade policy.
The vote to resurrect the federal lending agency was 67-26, with two dozen Senate Republicans joining Democrats to preserve the federal program.
Twenty-six Senate Republicans opposed the measure, offered by Republican Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois. Two of the biggest recipients of taxpayer-subsidized lending by the bank are Boeing and Caterpillar, both based in Illinois. Boeing, in fact, received 40 percent of the total bank’s lending last year.
The Export-Import Bank was created by FDR in the depths of the Depression to assist foreign companies’ purchase of American goods. Today, less than two percent of America’s exports are supported by the taxpayer-subsidized loans. Over 60 percent of the bank’s lending goes to support the products of just 10 companies.
The Ex-Im Bank expired at the end of June. Resurrection of the bank is a top priority of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and certain mega-corporations. Conservatives opposed extending the bank, but outside conservative groups haven’t launched a strong opposition to it.
There are arguments to be made to extend the life of the Bank, but none of them are good ones. Supporting the Bank is an acknowledgement that the federal government has some role in supporting commerce for individual companies.
In its purest form, the Ex-Im Bank is corporate welfare. In its modern-day incarnation, it is crony capitalism, conferring its taxpayer-backed benefits on a small handful of the most politically connected businesses.
The future of the measure is uncertain, as there is stronger conservative opposition to the Bank in the House. That said, Sens. Kirk and McConnell have crossed a significant hurdle in reviving the welfare program. Backers of the Bank are far more committed to resurrecting it than those opposed.
The Republican establishment, after all, only opposes welfare that exists outside the corporate boardroom.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz once again slammed McConnell in a Sunday floor speech:
Senate leadership consists of the McConnell-Reid leadership team. They operate as a team. They support the same priorities. If you look at what has occurred in the United States Senate since the Republicans took a majority, we immediately returned after winning a historic majority to pass a trillion dollar ‘cromnibus’ bill filled with corporate welfare and pork. Then, the so-called Republican majority voted to fund Obamacare. Then, the so-called Republican majority voted to fund President Obama’s unconstitutional executive amnesty. Then, the so-called Republican majority voted to confirm Loretta Lynch as attorney general. Then, just moments ago, the so-called Republican majority voted to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank, an egregious example of cronyism and corporate welfare.
Every one of those is the priority of the Democratic leader Harry Reid. Every one of those is the priority of the Republican leader, Mitch McConnell. They operate as a team, expanding Washington and undermining the liberty of the people.