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Chamber Feels Pressure From Ex-Im Opponents

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce launched an ad campaign Monday in support of the Export-Import Bank, revealing legitimate doubts about the bank’s future.

“The effort highlights the urgent action needed by Congress before the bank’s current charter expires on June 30, 2015,” according to a press release announcing the campaign.

Ex-Im’s charter was last scheduled to expire in September, and opponents were able to force a compromise on a short-term reauthorization, rather than the multi-year extensions that had been typical for much of the bank’s 81 year history. The Chamber supported reauthorization, then, too, but the current ad blitz is its first major effort to take that message to the public.

The first round of the campaign will include radio ads in approximately 10 states and 15 districts intended to win over members of Congress who are currently undecided about the bank. Once specific reauthorization bills begin to surface in Congress, the campaign will be expanded to include TV and print ads, and will target additional districts.

Supporters argue that Ex-Im provides significant benefits to the U.S. economy by providing financing for U.S. exporters that would not be available from the private sector. If the bank’s charter is not reauthorized, they claim, American companies will be put at a disadvantage relative to foreign competitors who receive financing from their own export-credit agencies, potentially resulting in the loss of thousands of American jobs.

“Time is running out. If Ex-Im’s charter is not renewed, there will be real consequences—lost sales and lost jobs in communities all across America,” Thomas J. Donohue, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber, said in the press release. “Failure to reauthorize Ex-Im would amount to unilateral disarmament in the face of other countries’ far more aggressive government export credit programs.”

Ex-Im is particularly important to small business owners, who “can’t walk down the street and get a loan to sell their products in Kazakhstan,” Bruce Josten, the chamber’s head of government affairs, told The Wall Street Journal. “The big guys might be able to do that, but not these firms.” (RELATED: Exporters Worried Export-Import Bank’s Days Are Numbered)

However, Ex-Im has been under sustained attack for the past year by conservative groups and some Republicans in Congress, who contend the bank is a form of corporate welfare that primarily serves to benefit large companies like Boeing, GE, and Caterpillar.

Heritage Action communications director Dan Holler, for instance, told The Daily Caller News Foundation that, “Josten’s comments to the Journal are extremely misleading.”

If the “big guys” can walk down the street and get a loan, Holler mused, “Why are Boeing, GE and Caterpillar the bank’s top recipients? Why are foreign, state-owned corporations the top beneficiaries?” (RELATED: Small Business Becomes Pawn in Ex-Im’s Fate)

“Using small businesses to justify corporate welfare for massive corporations like Boeing, GE, and Caterpillar is absurd,” he said, adding, “This isn’t a free enterprise agenda by any stretch.”

The Chamber’s campaign is widely seen as a response to anti-Ex-Im lobbying by groups such as Heritage Action, Club for Growth, and Freedom Partners, which some credit with securing the opposition of almost every current and prospective Republican presidential candidate.

At last count, the bank still has majority support in Congress, but that may not be enough to overcome opposition from key figures. One of the bank’s most vocal critics is Rep. Jeb Hensarling, who chairs the Financial Services Committee through which a reauthorization bill must pass under normal procedures. (RELATED: Is the Export-Import Bank Done?)

On the other hand, Speaker John Boehner could bring a bill to the floor directly if he feels enough pressure from the GOP caucus, as he did with the short-term reauthorization last September.

Follow Peter Fricke on Twitter

 

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