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Export-Import Bank Reauthorization Act of 2012--Motion to Proceed

Floor Speech

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Location: Unknown

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Ms. CANTWELL. Mr. President, I rise today to urge my colleagues in the Senate to pass the Export-Import Bank legislation now before us. This debate this morning is about jobs, it is about manufacturing jobs, and it is about U.S. manufacturing jobs. That is because this bank is one of the most powerful tools we have for manufacturing jobs in America.

This is a debate about whether the Members in this Chamber believe access to financing is a key tool for U.S. companies to compete on an international basis when they are trying to get U.S. manufactured products sold overseas. In fiscal year 2011 alone, the bank supported nearly 290,000 export-created jobs in America. Those are the jobs that are going to be threatened if the Senate does not act.

This authority expires on May 31. That is right, 16 days from now. And between now and then, the House is in session for only 5 days, so we can't afford to take this to the brink one more time with amendments passed by the Senate that are gutting amendments. These five amendments that will be considered would basically lapse the bank's authority and this would put into the debate more uncertainty about our economy.

We need to act now to renew the bank's charter, and businesses can't wait. They need the planning and certainty to hire more people. Failing to act will stifle U.S. economic opportunity. That is why nearly two dozen Governors, Democrats and Republicans alike, have urged the bank's extension, and so has the Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, and the Small Business Association.

Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent to have printed in the Record a
chart reflecting the jobs supported in each State by Ex-Im financing so that Members, if they wish to, can come and look at both the revenue that was generated and the jobs that were supported.

There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the RECORD,

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Ms. CANTWELL. Mr. President, the default rate on the bank is consistently less than 2 percent lower than most commercial lending. I am sure we will hear a lot about that during the debate today. But since 2005, the Export-Import Bank has returned $3.7 billion to the U.S. Treasury, above and beyond the cost of operation. So, yes, my colleagues, this is actually something that is making money for the Federal Government. Not only is it helping U.S. manufacturers sell their products overseas--financing in a way I think is equivalent to what the Small Business Administration does; helping to provide a certain level of financing that makes deals come through--I think it is why we find banks are supportive.

The money comes back into U.S. taxpayers' pockets and it supports our winning in a global situation by getting our products sold. It has been incredibly helpful to our economy, with zero cost to the taxpayers, and, in fact, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office concluded a 4-year reauthorization of the bank would reduce the deficit by up to $900 million over 5 years. So the bank works for businesses and it works for U.S. taxpayers.

There is a compromise that is before us. I know it may not be the compromise that I or the Senator from South Carolina--who I see is on the floor--would have written into the legislation, but nonetheless it is a compromise and it is time to act. The reason I say that is because so many States also are counting on the Export-Import Bank, just as Washington State is.

Pennsylvania, for example, has over $1.4 billion in exports and 9,800 jobs related to the Export-Import Bank; Massachusetts, with $566 million. This is from the annual report of the Ex-Im Bank in 2011. So they had $566 million of economic revenue generated in Massachusetts and over 4,000 jobs. Why? Because we helped Massachusetts exporters get access to capital so they could sell their products overseas and win in the international marketplace. Texas, another example, with $4.9 billion in exports, and 35,274 jobs.

These are jobs America needs. This is a global economy in which America needs to be able to compete, and getting access to capital so that products can be sold is a critically important issue.

Florida, another great example of the support of the Ex-Im Bank, had $1.1 billion in exports and over 7,643 jobs. So that State has been another big winner; the State of North Carolina, $456 million in exports and 3,309 jobs; and Ohio, another example of manufacturers and businesses, with $398 million in exports and 2,888 jobs.

While there are many people who would like to say this program should be discontinued--and I am sure some of my colleagues are not in favor of it because there are many programs they wish to get rid of--I would say this is a program that is good for the U.S. taxpayers. The Ex-Im Bank has generated $3.7 billion for U.S. taxpayers since 2005.

Again, what is this debate about? The underlying amendments my colleagues are offering are trying to gut the Ex-Im Bank. They simply don't like it, and they want to get rid of it or say it is not a viable tool. I guess because one in four jobs in Washington State is based on trade, I know how critically important it is. Whether we are talking about agricultural products or selling airplanes or selling music stands, as one company we saw, or selling grain silos, companies need to be able to compete in the international marketplace and they need to be able to get sales for their products. This has been a very viable and important tool for them.

Some of my colleagues have previously raised concerns about the bank's transparency and oversight, and these concerns have been heard and addressed in this legislation. I wish to talk about the five ways this new compromise bill addresses those concerns.

There is more oversight. Under the amended bill, we would have a quarterly report on its default rate, and the first of these reports would be due September of this year. The bank has historically maintained a low default rate of less than 2 percent, but under this provision, if the default rate reaches 2 percent or higher, the bank will have to develop a plan to fix the problem and report to Congress within 1 month. If the default rate stays above 2 percent for more than 6 months, they will be subject to a review of an independent auditor.

These are very viable and important additions to the legislation. Not only would the auditor be there to help fix what was going on, he would have the oversight for anything that was involved with the bank they needed to report on. So there is less risk.

The second change to the underlying bill is the Government Accountability Office must study and report back to the bank safeguards that prevent it from taking loans that are too risky. Again, since the bank has had a historically low default rate, we are happy to add this language, but it is another layer of protection on something that is performing and performing well. But as I say, we are happy to add that to the legislation.

More public input. The bank will have to open a public comment period for transactions greater than $100 million and it will have to notify Congress about these transactions so there is more transparency on what some consider the bigger financial loans in which the bank is involved.

Fourth, we have added more accountability. There is an annual report where the bank has to justify the need of every transaction--every transaction. That way the public will know if the bank has acted because a private lender would not have or if it acted in response to foreign export credit agencies.

And then fifth, the Treasury must engage nations in discussions about the need for export financing worldwide. I know some of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle would hope the President would end all export financing and leave that discussion at the World Trade Organization. But I would ask my colleagues, what is the difference between this and the Small Business Administration that provides an opportunity, a bridging of capital between small businesses and the opportunities to join with private financing to make deals happen.

As I said earlier, I live in a State where we know how beneficial export markets are to our products--whether we are speaking of cherries or apples or
airplanes or a variety of new technologies--and these products are winning the day in the international marketplace. They are also creating jobs. So for my colleagues on the other side of the aisle who wish to end this program or say it ought to be ended on an international basis, we are happy to hear what the world community wants to debate and discuss on this basis, but I would ask why, in the moment of crisis in our financial institutions, when one of the supposedly most risk-averse institutions can't figure out why it lost $2 billion, would we want small businesses across America to pay the price for the fact they can't get financing of their products sold in an international marketplace? We have to wake up and understand this is about helping small businesses and helping them win the day for products that are created in the United States--created in the United States and sold abroad.
This compromise legislation that is offered today is the best path forward. These amendments are an attempt to gut the underlying bill and to stop the authorization of the bank and have it curtailed. As I said, we only have about 5 legislative days, given the House's schedule, to get this done. Some of my colleagues want to tell all those businesses I mentioned in all those States--Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, and others--that we don't know anymore whether this program exists and so let's actually stop the funding and lose jobs.

I know there are people in my State--such as Lawrence Stone from SCAFCO or Bill Perdue from Sonico--who gave me the message the American people want us to focus on creating jobs and supporting businesses. They want a program like this to continue and they want the jobs it creates for their communities.

I thank the Chair, and I yield the floor.

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Ms. CANTWELL. Mr. President, I appreciate my colleague from South Carolina coming down to talk about his important tool for U.S. manufacturers and why it is important in his State and why we need to get on to the business of passing this House legislation that was a compromise that involved many people and, as my colleague from South Carolina stated, a very robust vote out of the House of Representatives.

I also wish to say a few words about my colleague's amendment, Senator Corker. I will trust what my colleague from South Carolina says, that the amendment may be seen as a reform of the system, well intended, but I can tell you, it will have very adverse effects.

The Corker amendment basically is calling for a 10-percent capital ratio requirement. It is not based on any fact or reason. The bank has had a default rate of less than 2 percent--1.5 percent. So raising the reserve ratio would have a very adverse effect on the bank itself, and it would quadruple the reserves and basically cause problems with the bank and how it is leveraged.

If this is an issue about reform, there are many reforms in the underlying bill. To the provision that would say you would have to verify, if you are an individual business, that you can't get financing, I have read the Senator's amendment. I am not sure how you would prove that. It is not clear from the legislation. Does that mean you would have to survey every time the ex-im program was implemented for a business?

Let's say SCAFCO in Spokane, WA, which is a grain silo producer that is selling silos in many different parts of the world--every time they wanted to get financing for one of those silos, what would they do? Would they petition five banks in a region? Would they petition 100 banks in a region? I want people to understand what that competition is like.

Let's pretend that SCAFCO, as I said, which makes large grain elevators and is selling products all over the world and is one of the world leaders, and we have an Ex-Im Bank requirement that says they have to prove there is no financing available, and they are selling a lot of product in South America, in Africa, in Asia. Now somebody else says, You know what. I can get financing for the product out of Russia or I can get financing for the product out of China and I don't have that same requirement, so I am not going to buy from you, I am going to buy from them.

That is what you are doing. You are basically hamstringing American competitors in an international marketplace by not allowing them the financing tools. Of course the bank has to show they can't get financing, but this new provision puts an undue burden on these individuals--because of the language and how vague it is, how are they ever going to prove that there isn't someone there?

Instead of hamstringing American businesses, why not allow those American businesses to continue under this legislation that, as my colleague from South Carolina said, has been around for decades and been very effective? And we are including more transparency.

I urge my colleagues to defeat the Corker amendment because of its requirements on capital ratio that they do not need and, second, on an ability to prohibit the financing based on a clause that I don't even know how it can be met. My colleagues from States that are using this program will understand that it will be very hard for our businesses to continue to compete with such a requirement.

I know my colleague Senator Lee was here earlier. The Lee amendment basically would out-and-out defund the Export-Import financing program. I get that some of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle believe we should not have this program. I think it has been a very important tool for U.S. companies to win in their sales of U.S. products overseas and, as I said, creates thousands of jobs. I do not think the amendment of Senator Lee, which would basically abolish the bank as of September 30, 2013, is a good way to go.

I yield the floor.

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Ms. CANTWELL. Mr. President, I rise to address the Vitter amendment, No. 2103. In speaking in opposition to that amendment, as I said, like all these amendments that are up for us to vote on today, I believe they are detrimental not only to the Export-Import financing program but to the compromise that has been worked out by Republicans and Democrats in the House of Representatives in the legislation that is being supported by the chamber of commerce, U.S. manufacturers, a bipartisan list of Governors, and many businesses across America.

The reason the Vitter amendment is a horrible idea, actually, is that the amendment would basically cut off or curtail American companies in their ability to compete on energy projects on a worldwide basis; that is, it would eliminate the bank's current 10 percent goal for renewable energy projects. This is a longstanding requirement that has been incorporated into the Senate Foreign Operations bill. Why someone would oppose it here I am not sure.

As somebody who knows a lot about energy and works on energy all the time, I can tell you that one of the goals we have as a country should be for the United States to win in the energy debate. Look at what a tremendous market opportunity new energy solutions are for our economy, for the worldwide economy. It is somewhere from $4 trillion to $6 trillion. A lot of people like to talk about the Internet and the great things on the Internet. By comparison, it was somewhere between $2 and $4 trillion. This is an economic opportunity way beyond that.

When you look at what China is doing, they need to invest $3.7 trillion by 2030 in order to build 1,300 gigawatts of new electricity-generating capacity. The Chinese Government alone needs to spend $3.7 trillion on energy. My colleague from Louisiana wants to say: Let's hamstring U.S. companies--those that might have a solution to some of China's energy needs--from getting the appropriate financing so they can be successful in this program. To me, it is wrongheaded in the fact that we want to be selling to China, as I said, just because in the Northwest we already know what China is as a market. We sell them software, we sell them airplanes, we sell them coffee--we sell them lots of things. We understand they are a market. To curtail the solutions U.S. companies are working on, whether it is battery technology or smart grid technology or solutions for a whole range of products--you could even say nuclear power solutions or other clean energy source solutions--all of these things would be curtailed under the Vitter amendment.

We do not want to go backward. Not only does the United States want to be a leader in energy solutions in the United States, the United States should have the goal of being an energy winner in the international marketplace, growing jobs through selling solutions that we think can be quite successful in and around the developing world and in China.

I ask my colleagues to defeat this amendment and to make sure we get this bank. As I said regarding the Export-Import financing program, we have about 5 legislative days to give the predictability and certainty American businesses would like to see in making sure U.S. manufacturers win in a global marketplace.

I yield the floor.

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Ms. CANTWELL. I have enjoyed listening to my colleagues on the other side of the aisle talk about Senator Toomey's amendment and all about subsidies. Well, it is hard to argue about subsidies when we are talking about the Ex-Im Bank generating $3.7 billion for U.S. taxpayers since 2005.

So if this is a subsidy, we need a lot more of it because you are winning in producing jobs and you are actually producing money for the Treasury. This is a very important tool for us to win in a global economy. I think my colleague from South Carolina who spoke earlier said it best when he talked about the manufacturing jobs that are now in that State and what an important tool it is.

I am not one of those who basically says: Oh, we should do it because other countries do it. I am saying, you should recognize that is going on, but that the United States needs to understand there is a global marketplace for its products. If you believe in U.S. manufacturers, as I do--and I have seen them in my State--they are winning the day in producing products and services that can beat the competition in international marketplaces. They can.

I have seen grain silos, I have seen music stands, and, yes, I have seen airplanes. So the question is, are we going to let U.S. products that can beat the competition in an international marketplace lose because the purchaser of those products is looking for financing mechanisms that will help them secure financing and purchase of those products? That is the question.

Does the United States want to do those kinds of activities? I say we should be even more aggressive. Why? Because the global development of many countries that are now buying U.S. products is going to continue to grow. In my State, in southwest Washington, in Vancouver, I saw the second largest grain elevator in the entire world--the second largest grain elevator. I said: Why do we have the second largest grain elevator in the entire world right here at the Port of Vancouver? They said to me: Because as the Asian middle class rises, they want to eat beef. And if they want to eat beef, they have to have grain.

What is wrong with the United States selling grain to Asian markets because they want our product--or all these other products we have been talking about today? These are examples of products in the United States where we are actually building a product that many countries and many end customers want. We should celebrate that, and we should realize, as the growing middle class around the globe increases, there is even more opportunity for the United States to sell products and win the day in the marketplace. So I do not know what they are talking about when they say ``subsidies,'' because this has been good for the U.S. taxpayers, and it has been good for our economy.

Specifically to the Toomey amendment, this amendment would require unnecessary conditions for helping the bank in the future. Basically, it would put a hold on the financing of the Export-Import Bank until we negotiated on an international basis to terminate this kind of financing.

As I said, for many States, they have had great benefits. In Pennsylvania, they have had the economic benefit--this is in just 2011--of $1.4 billion in exports and over 9,000 jobs. So here is something that has actually created jobs, created money for the U.S. economy--basically money back to U.S. taxpayers that we have used to help pay down the deficit. So how is it that is bad for us? In the meantime, that manufacturer in Pennsylvania is winning and getting his product out on an international basis and, hopefully, expanding his business to many different countries.

We had numbers on some of the other examples of companies that have been helped in various States. These are products and services like many in my State. We have visited a grain silo producer in Spokane, WA, that is winning in selling its product. We visited a music stands company, Manhasset Music Stands. You would think somebody might be able to compete with them and beat them in the international marketplace, but, in fact, they are winning the day in the international marketplace, and the Export-Import Bank helps them in doing so.

There are many examples of how this particular program is a win for taxpayers, is a win for manufacturers, and is a win for the U.S. economy. These amendments that are all trying to gut the Export-Import Bank would send this back to the House, when we need to be sending it to the President's desk, giving certainty and predictability to our economy, giving certainty and predictability to a program that has existed for decades, for which often there has been a voice vote--instead of holding it up, actually making sure manufacturers have the opportunity and know where the financing is.

I yield the floor.


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