Native Hawaiian Businesses Receive Boost In House Export Bank Bill But Senate Prospects Dim

Nov 18, 2019

The U.S. House of Representatives voted to renew the charter of the Import-Export Bank, largely along party lines, but approval from the Senate is unlikely.

The United States Export-Import Bank, or EXIM as it is known, was created by President Franklin Roosevelt during the Great Depression with the goal of boosting U.S. exports.

The bank, which operates as an independent federal agency, provides loans to help American companies increase overseas exports and foreign companies purchase U.S. products.

On Friday, the House of Representatives approved a 10-year renewal of the bank’s charter, including a provision to boost the participation of women and minority-owned businesses.

Congressmen Ed Case of Hawaii and Don Young of Alaska co-sponsored an amendment that specifically designates Native Hawaiians and Alaskans as minorities for the purposes of export financing.

If passed by the Senate, the bill would rename the bank as the U.S. Export Finance Agency, with a mandate to promote businesses owned by women, minorities, and those located in U.S. territories.

But approval from the Republican-controlled Senate appears unlikely and the Trump Administration has threatened a veto.

Republicans say Financial Services Committee Democrats walked away from a bipartisan agreement that had been struck in advance of a committee vote last month.

“We had a good faith negotiation and the majority decided to walk away ... because of union opposition,” said Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., the top Republican on the Financial Services Committee, citing the machinists. “They have all their Democrat priorities in there and zero Republican priorities that I negotiated.”

A handful of liberal Democrats also opposed the measure.

Friday’s vote also reflects an increasingly toxic environment in the House, where impeachment proceedings are dominating attention. Democrats made little effort to attract Republican votes in the wake of a marathon committee session last month, though GOP-leaning groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce supported the effort.

A 2015 measure reauthorizing the bank won a sweeping bipartisan vote in a GOP-controlled Congress after establishment Republicans prevailed over GOP tea party forces. But the bank languished without a quorum until this spring when the Senate finally confirmed a slate of nominees that allowed the bank to process larger transactions to help companies like Boeing and others with export deals.

It has many GOP critics who say it distorts markets and that too much of its help benefits large corporations like Boeing. Some U.S. businesses, including airlines, say the bank effectively subsidizes foreign competitors.

Among the changes sought by Republicans were provisions to ban the bank from dealing with state-owned enterprises in China and Russia and increased focus on helping small businesses benefit from the bank’s activities.

Financial Services Chairwoman Maxine Waters, D-Calif., touted the creation of a new office for renewable energy exports and stronger environmental standards.

Supporters of the bank, including most Democrats and the GOP’s establishment wing, say foreign governments unfairly subsidize domestic companies and that the bank helps level the playing field.

“If we fail to reauthorize the bank, American businesses will be harmed, and thousands of jobs will be lost,” Waters said, noting that the legislation has the support of both business and labor.

The bank’s charter expired at the end of September but has been temporarily renewed through a government-wide stopgap spending bill and will likely again be extended next week with renewal of the stopgap measure through Dec. 20.