The state of Washington is the nation’s largest benefactor of the Export-Import Bank, which supports thousands of jobs at large and small companies with loans, loan guarantees and credit services for overseas buyers. Between 2007 and 2014, Washington state companies exported more than $111 billion of locally manufactured goods financed by the federally funded bank, five times the amount of either California or Texas.
Labor and industry have set aside their differences to urge Congress to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank before its charter expires on Sept. 20, as they have done for 80 years. The bank is so important to the U.S. economy that 41 U.S. House Republicans signed a letter of support for reauthorization, joining all House Democrats.
But the name of Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Spokane, was noticeably absent from the letter, and she’s the only member of the Washington state congressional delegation who has not declared support for the bank. All other Republican members of Congress have signed, including the ultra-conservative Doc Hastings, who will retire from his 4th District seat at the end of this year.
McMorris Rodgers’ position is surprising. Forty of Boeing’s suppliers are located in her 5th District, doing more than $360 million annually and employing hundreds of workers. Not reauthorizing the bank puts those jobs in jeopardy.
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Yes, Boeing benefits from the Export-Import Bank. International purchasers of multimillion-dollar airplanes are some of the bank’s biggest customers. And that multibillion-dollar business benefits everyone in the state of Washington.
But it’s not just about Boeing. About 90 percent of the bank’s loans go to small businesses, like Pexco in Fife. It employs 150 people who make plastic traffic poles shipped to 28 countries around the world.
The Export-Import Bank provides federal insurance to cover about $2 million of Pexco’s exports. Another 182 small companies like Pexco have used the bank’s financial services.
Olympia’s Rep. Denny Heck, a member of the House Financial Services Committee, is the sponsor of the reauthorization bill. He calls the tea party’s criticism of the bank as “crony capitalism” the epitome of insanity.
“Here’s the bottom line: If the bank is allowed to go away, thousands of jobs in Washington state will be lost. That’s the fact,” Heck has said.
Perhaps a strong bipartisan bill to reauthorize the bank will emerge from the U.S. Senate before Congress takes its August break. During the summer recess, maybe Republicans who haven’t signed on to support the bank will hear from their chambers of commerce, business owners and labor leaders and then return with a new perspective on the Export-Import Bank.
They should at least come back with the understanding that the bank doesn’t cost taxpayers a single cent. The bank funds itself by charging fees to foreign purchasers using its services. It was so successful last year that it returned more than $1 billion to the U.S. Treasury.
We hope McMorris Rodgers gets the message. Washington is a state reliant on exports. As a representative of this state, she should support reauthorization.