|Ara Bagdasarian, left, CEO of Omnilert and co-author of The Lemonade Stand, shows his book about entrepreneurship to U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine in Leesburg in May 2013. Times-Mirror File Photo/Beverly Denny|
U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) did his best Thursday to strip down a complex political fight over the federal Export-Import Bank, the U.S.'s official export credit agency.
“Madam President, I have got a deal for you,” a chipper Kaine said on the Senate floor to Mazie Hirono, the Hawaii senator who was presiding over the chamber. “Let's create American jobs, let's help American businesses find customers abroad, and let's do it at no cost to the American taxpayer.”
Kaine was lobbying his colleagues to re-authorize the Ex-Im Bank, which helps finance through loans the sale and expansion of U.S.-made equipment to foreign buyers. Without action from Congress, the bank's charter will expire Sept. 30.
In addition to Kaine, Virginia's senior Sen. Mark Warner and the Obama Administration support re-authorization, while some leading conservatives want to end the Ex-Im Bank, saying it disrupts the free market. The bank's critics liken it “corporate welfare.”
A spokesman for U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.-10th) would not say whether Wolf will support extending the bank's charter. The spokesman, Dan Scandling, predicted “a short term extension will probably be part of the continuing resolution that comes up next week to fund the government through the end of the year.”
The Ex-Im Bank has financed U.S. exports worth more than $188 billion, supported 1.2 million American jobs and generated $2 billion for U.S. taxpayers in the past five years, according to a report posted on its website.
Nearly $200 million in funds from the bank have helped bolster several Loudoun-based companies that do business internationally. Dulles-headquartered Orbital Sciences has borrowed $130 million from the bank since 2007. Those funds aided more than $143 million in sales for Orbital. Another local firm, K2M in Leesburg, has received $45 million in loans in the past seven years, money that supported $68 million in exports.
As part of his pitch, Kaine listed several Virginia businesses that have benefited from the bank, including Orbital.
“In Virginia, generally since 2007, the Ex-Im Bank has supported 98 companies in every congressional district,” said Kaine. “Fifty-nine are small businesses; 10 are minority-owned; three are women-owned. I have heard from everybody in Virginia, from Gov. McAuliffe to the Virginia Chamber of Commerce to both the National and Virginia Association of Manufacturers, saying, ‘whatever you do, find an agreement to authorize the continuation of this very important bank.‘”
Representatives from both Orbital and K2M backed Kaine's statements, saying funds from the Ex-Im Bank have been instrumental in expanding their business around the globe.
Greg Cole, the chief financial officer for K2M, said the federally-backed bank can offer expertise in specific foreign markets that many private, commercial banks either can't or won't. Cole said the bank was especially critical when K2M, now a publicly-traded company, was first venturing into new markets.
Both Cole and Sen. Kaine say the Ex-Im Bank is about "leveling the playing field" for U.S. businesses competing in the global market.
“Countries like China, France, Germany, Korea and India are extending multiple times as much financing as our Export-Import Bank,” Kaine said. “This is not the time to let international competitors eat our lunch.”
The Ex-Im Bank was supported by Presidents Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.