The Senate moved to revive the U.S. Export-Import Bank’s ability to back large deals for the first time since 2015, despite objections from conservative Republicans who say it provides corporate welfare for wealthy companies like its largest customer, Boeing Co.
Senators on Tuesday advanced the nominations of Kimberly A. Reed for president of the bank, and former Representative Spencer Bachus III and Judith DelZoppo Pryor to be members of the board of directors. If they are confirmed in final votes scheduled for Wednesday, the bank would have the three-member quorum it needs to approve deals worth more than $10 million.
The Ex-Im Bank says it has almost $40 billion in pending transactions awaiting consideration by the board that would support an estimated 230,000 jobs.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said moving the nominations forward will be a boon for U.S. companies.
“They can engage in the lending they’re designed to provide for American businesses trying to keep up around the world,” said McConnell, a Kentucky Republican.
The Ex-Im bank, created during the Great Depression, helps foreign companies buy U.S. products when private banks won’t provide financing. Its biggest beneficiaries include manufacturing and aerospace companies such as Boeing and General Electric Co., and big banks, like JPMorgan Chase & Co., that help finance deals.
“Ex-Im has operated to benefit the wealthiest and the most politically connected businesses in America, as well as their overseas clients,” said Senator Mike Lee, a Utah Republican, on the Senate floor. “It’s no coincidence that Ex-Im has been nicknamed Boeing’s bank when Ex-Im financing was at its peak.”
The bank was nearly killed off during President Barack Obama’s administration. Congress allowed its charter to expire for about six months in 2015, but even after lawmakers reauthorized the bank, most of the five spots on its board remained vacant, meaning it couldn’t approve large deals.
Senator Richard Shelby, long a critic of the bank, said in an interview that while he opposes the three nominees, he expects their nominations will be successful. Asked why the nominations were moving forward, Shelby said, “politics.”
Shelby had blocked nominees to the Ex-Im board while he was chairman of the Senate Banking Committee. He is now Appropriations chairman.