Political Battle Over Export Bank Heats Up

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from The Wall Street Journal,

New House Leadership, Conservative Groups Seek to Shut It Down.

Lawmakers at a recent House hearing on the future of the Export-Import Bank were given an extra piece of reading material: a personalized index card laying out exactly which companies in their districts benefit from the financing agency and how many people they employ.

The cards, which supporters of the bank plan to give to every member of Congress in coming weeks, are part of a lobbying push by corporations such as Boeing Co. and General Electric Co., and business groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and National Association of Manufacturers. Their goal is to combat the most serious threat yet to the survival of the agency, which is under assault by new House leadership and conservative groups that say it amounts to corporate welfare.

The Export-Import Bank borrows money from the Treasury and uses it to help American companies sell abroad by offering low-cost loans to foreign buyers or guarantees against potential losses made by exporters.

In fiscal 2013, the bank authorized $27 billion to support an estimated $37.4 billion in U.S. export sales, including aircraft, power-generation equipment and oil and gas projects. That year it sent $1.06 billion to the Treasury, money it earned from interest and fees.

Supporters, including the Obama administration, say the agency allows U.S. companies to better compete with foreign rivals, many of which receive government assistance such as below-market-rate financing.

Opponents say the bank inappropriately disrupts the free market. They say it mostly benefits the richest and most politically connected companies, turning the fight over the agency into a proxy for a larger struggle over government’s role in helping U.S. businesses.

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