Senate to take up short-term highway bill that omits Ex-Im Bank

The Washington Times (7/29, Howell) reports that the Senate is “set to embrace a three-month highway bill from the House this week,” describing the legislation as offering “a way out of a standoff that exposed a rift between Republican leaders” ahead of a funding deadline this Friday. The bill, which the House is expected to debate on Wednesday, would pay for highway projects through October while filling “a $3.3 billion budget hole at the Veterans Administration” so it won’t have to close hospitals and clinics. Meanwhile, both congressional chambers are expected to continue working on a long-term funding bill for the nation’s transportation infrastructure.

Roll Call (7/28, Lesniewski), in its “WGDB” blog, reports that a casualty of the short-term move by the Senate may be the reauthorization of the US Export-Import Bank. Although the fate of the Bank, whose charter expired June 30, remains “unresolved,” there “appears to be no way forward for such a measure with the looming expiration of the transportation authorities and the House planning to skip town on Wednesday” for vacation, the post says. Reuters (7/29, Cowan, Lambert) runs a similar, but brief, report.

The Hill (7/29, Carney) reports that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) “signaled” that the Senate would take up the House measure, but he didn’t say when that would be. As for Democrats, Sen. Charles Schumer (NY) was among those who “slammed Republicans for leaving” the Ex-Im question unresolved for the rest of the summer, but he indicated nevertheless that his party would support the extension, as “we don’t want to compound the injury and shut down the highway bill.”

Global Trade (7/28, Buxbaum) noted that Monday’s vote by the Senate to reauthorize the Ex-Im Bank’s charter until 2019, though passage of an amendment from Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) to the highway funding bill, drew praise from the NAM, with President and CEO Jay Timmons saying the Senate’s action was meant to “restore an essential tool” for US exporters to sell their products abroad.

Small Businesses Likely To Suffer Most From Bank’s Shuttering. The Wall Street Journal (7/29, A2, Timiraos, Peterson, Subscription Publication) reports that although political opponents of the Ex-Im Bank have focused on its lending to US-based corporate titans, the Bank and its supporters argue that it is primarily small businesses that are being harmed by the expiration of its charter. Only about 25% of the money lent by the agency went to small businesses last year, that accounted for approximately 90% of the number of loans made by the Bank.

A piece by Politico Pro (7/29, Guida, Subscription Publication) reports that with the Bank likely to “stay dead just a little longer,” there are signs that “damage” has begun to affect businesses that depend on Ex-Im financing. NAM Vice President of International Economic Affairs Linda Dempsey told Politico Pro that US manufacturers “small, medium and large are already starting to feel the impact of Ex-Im not moving forward.” Should NAM members want to read the full article for free, they may contact National Association of Manufacturers account manager Molly Fluet at mfluet@politico.com.

The NAM’s Shopfloor (7/28, Wilk) blog notes that the association on Tuesday hosted a briefing for congressional staff members about the importance of reauthorizing the Bank and its “critical” role for US exporters. Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY), a longtime small-business owner before entering Congress, stressed Ex-Im’s usefulness to small American exporters. Several trade-policy experts also took part in a panel discussion at the briefing.