Under fire on Capitol Hill, the head of a little known federal trade bank defended the bank’s mission in Boston as lawmakers weigh whether to
reauthorize the agency.
Speaking to the New England Council, Fred
Hochberg, chairman and president of the Export-Import Bank of the United States, said eliminating the bank would put U.S. companies at a competitive disadvantage overseas.
“As every other country is gearing up and putting more money into their export banks, we’re the only country talking about standing down,” Hochberg said. “We can’t put our head in the sand and not realize what the rest of the world is doing.”
Originally formed in 1934 as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, the bank provides loans and loan guarantees to help U.S. companies sell goods abroad.
The Ex-Im, a relatively small federal agency, has been heavily criticized by Republican congressmen recently, who have said the bank amounts to the government picking winners and losers.
One of the most vocal critics has been Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), who heads the House committee that oversees the bank. Hensarling has said the bank provides sweetheart deals for corporate giants, including Boeing, and should be abolished. The Ex-Im has also been criticized for providing subsidies to fossil-fuel related industries.
Democrats, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren and President Obama, support reauthorizing the bank.
Congress most recently reauthorized the Ex-Im in 2012. The bank’s biggest ally in the House was Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), who resigned as majority leader after he lost his primary race in June. Cantor played a big role in brokering a deal to keep the bank active in 2012.
One option is a reform of the bank, which could include no longer allowing the bank to make loans, only loan guarantees.
Hochberg said he has met with “eight or nine” lawmakers over the past two days, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), but it is still unclear if the bank will be reauthorized before its charter expires on Sept. 30.
“We’ve got people’s attention, but we still don’t have a vote,” Hochberg said. “There’s not an obvious clear path forward at the moment.”
Herald wire services contributed to this report.