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  September 20th, 2016 | Written by

EXIM Still Not Totally Back in Business

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  • Continuing resolution currently pending before Congress would restore EXIM.
  • Lack of quorum of directors means EXIM can't approve deals worth over $10 million.
  • $20 billion in EXIM loans and guarantees are affected by the current political stalemate.

The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce think that a continuing resolution currently pending before Congress is the best bet for restoring the Export-Import Bank of the United States to its full functionality.

The bank was shut down entirely for six months not that long ago when its congressional charter was intentionally allowed to lapse. The bank’s charter was eventually restored but

the failure of Congress to approve President Obama’s two nominees to the bank’s quorum of directors means EXIM can’t approve deals worth over $10 million. That hurts big U.S. exporters like Boeing, Caterpillar, and General Electric whose deals often exceed that ceiling many times over.

According to EXIM Chairman Fred Hochberg, more than $20 billion in loans and guarantees are affected by the current stalemate.

Now that Congress has returned from its summer recess it is considering a continuing resolution that contains language allowing EXIM to approve big deals without the required quorum of directors. The main purpose of the continuing resolution is to keep the government open after October 1, when fiscal year 2017 begins, in the absence of formal appropriations.

“The continuing resolution represents the most viable path forward to restore full operations at the U.S. Ex-Im Bank, which is vital to American businesses and their supply chains trying to compete in a fierce global economy,” said a joint statement from NAM president and CEO Jay Timmons and Chamber of Commerce CEO Tom Donohue. “A supermajority in Congress has already settled the question of Ex-Im reauthorization, and there is simply no more time to waste. Following the Senate’s failure to act on a board nomination that would reinstate the bank’s full functionality, we urge Congress to embrace identical language adopted in both the House and Senate foreign operations appropriations bills to fully reopen the bank as intended last year.”

It’s true that a bipartisan consensus supports restoring EXIM to its full authority. But there is also a small cadre of EXIM opponents who are willing to hamstring the legislation and shut the government down over the issue (as well as over Planned Parenthood funding, which is also in the continuing resolution).

That’s why at least some congressional observers are saying that the most likely scenario is that Congress passes a short-term stop-gap measure that would hold things over until after the November elections. If that’s the case, EXIM and the exporters it serves will have to wait until Congress takes up the issue again in a couple of months.