That the Senate voted down the refunding of the Export-Import Bank should not be cause for celebration. While the vote does initially look like a victory for supporters of free enterprise and entrepreneurship, when viewed in the political context the protectionist motivations for many of the conservative votes is revealed.
One would hope that conservative Senators would vote against a protectionist big-government bank out of principle, but this does not appear to be the case. Senators who voted against the amendment, like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, have said that they support the ExIm Bank’s eventual reauthorization. The reason that Republicans voted against the reauthorization of funds is that with the ExIm Bank’s amendment attached to the Jobs Act it is possible that the House would kill the bill. The Jobs Act (which has support from many in the House and the President) with the ExIm Bank amendment attached would be difficult to pass.
Some of the Republican Senators who voted to not reauthorize funds included Lindsey Graham (S.C.) and Richard Shelby (Ala.), whose states are home to manufacturers who receive generous support from the ExIm Bank. Both Graham and Shelby want the ExIm Bank to continue to have funds, but want to reconsider in the spring when its funds are not attached to the Jobs Act.
It is a shame that more Republicans did not vote against the amendment out of principled concern and support for free enterprise. Yesterday’s vote only confirmed how wedded Republicans are to corporate welfare and protectionism. This is particularly evident in the airline industry, with the New York Times reporting that W.James McNerney Jr, the Chief Executive of Boeing, met with Rep. Eric Cantor last week to push for reauthorization. Boeing wants the bank reauthorized, but not so much that it makes it easier for foreign companies to buy American planes.
The ExIm Bank is not only blatant corporate welfare but also a tool being used to dress up job-creation schemes. It was recently reported that the ExIm Bank had been involved in helping Obama-supported solar companies to sell panels to itself. In addition the ExIm Bank has had loans linked to drug cartels in Mexico.
It is remarkable that after the fiasco caused by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that Republicans, the supposed party of enterprise and capitalism, still continue to support institutions like the ExIm Bank. The fact that Senators like Graham and Shelby voted against reauthorization when some of their constituents are so reliant on handouts shows how confident they are that funds will inevitably be authorized in the future. It is time for the Republicans to live up their rhetoric and start seriously reconsidering the value (or lack thereof) institutions like the ExIm Bank offer the U.S. economy.