A Capitol Hill battle is shaping up over the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank. The bank provides financial aid to U.S. exporters, including heavy-equipment makers and construction firms. Its authorization expires on Sept. 30. A White House bill to keep Ex-Im running for five years has business groups' support. But at least one key House Republican opposes the proposal.
The White House bill, sent to Congress on April 23, would extend Ex-Im through 2019 and raise its aid cap, in steps, to $160 billion from $140 billion. Business doesn't want to see the bank's authority lapse.
Bill Lane, Caterpillar Inc. director of global government affairs, says Ex-Im aid is often key to a U.S. company's winning an overseas contract. "If you have Ex-Im Bank support, you get the business," he says. "And if you don't have it, you don't."
But House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) blasted the proposal. "I have always believed that reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank is a bad idea," he said on April 25. "Only in Washington can a taxpayer-subsidized program whose only purpose is to pick winners and losers 'fail upward' by requesting more money."
The debate arises at a time of strong world infrastructure demand. Speaking at the Ex-Im conference, Rockefeller Foundation President Judith Rodin said huge population growth is driving that demand, particularly in developing countries' "second-tier cities."
Lane says Caterpillar favors some bank policy changes—for example, the requirement that firms receiving Ex-Im aid use U.S. ships to carry their goods. But Cat will push for a long-term Ex-Im measure. Lane says, "We have lots of priorities, but [an Ex-Im bill] is at the top of the list right now and will become even more so as we get close to September 30th."