CHICAGO - Monday in Chicago, U.S. Senator Mark Kirk is meeting with Export-Import Bank Chairman Fred Hochberg to participate in a private, closed-door roundtable at the Chicago Club with Illinois business and industry leaders to discuss bank reauthorization.
Kirk and Hochberg will then travel to Rockford Illinois for a Global Access Forum at Northern Illinois University, then a tour of UTC Aerospace Systems in Rockford.
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Congress will vote on whether or not to reauthorize the Ex-Im Bank by September 30. Senator Kirk is in full support of reauthorizing the bank, and in May he wrote a letter along with Democrat U.S. Senator Joe Manchin urging the bank continue.
"The Ex-Im Bank is committed to promoting small businesses’ exports. In 2013, the Bank financed a record 3,413 small businesses, which amounted to almost 90 percent of the Bank’s transactions," Kirk's May 7th letter said.
"Most notably, in the past five years, the Bank financed more small businesses than the prior eight years combined. Constituents in our home states of West Virginia and Illinois have told us that, without Ex-Im Bank services, their small businesses would have no opportunity to participate in lucrative export markets."
President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton agree with Kirk and Manchin. During this summer's U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, both spoke out in favor of the funding.
During the summit’s headline event, which brought nearly 50 African heads-of-state to Washington, Obama pitched a $3 billion pledge to support U.S. exports to sub-Saharan Africa through the Ex-Im Bank.
“I would be remiss if I did not add that House Republicans can help by re-authorizing the Export-Import Bank,” Obama said during the speech. “That is the right thing to do.”
However, not everyone agrees that the Ex-Im Bank should be reauthorized. A coalition of conservative groups from Americans for Prosperity to Heritage Foundation are staunchly opposed to the bank continuing. They argue that the Ex-Im Bank picks winners and sets up unfair advantage.
"Supporters of Ex-Im Bank only look at the visible benefits that allegedly come from the money given to exporting companies. What they fail to account for are the massive unseen costs of these taxpayer-supported loans and guarantees," Eric Peterson wrote for Americans for Prosperity.
"For every dollar one company receives in financing, it is also receiving an unfair advantage over similar companies competing in the same industry who did not get Ex-Im funding. Having to compete with recipients of subsidies well-connected enough to receive Ex-Im handouts means those businesses that lack political connections are unable to expand, bring on additional hires and may even raise the specter of bankruptcy," he wrote. "While the beneficiaries such as the much touted Miss. Jenny’s Pickles gets plenty of spotlight both from politicians who back the bank and their friends in the media; those harmed by the banks policies often lack such high-profile spokesmen.
And ranking Congressional leaders are also opposed.
“Given that we learned this week that the Export-Import Bank is connected to 40 different ongoing fraud investigations, it’s a very odd time for the president to be cheering for them,” Chairman of the Committee on Financial Services Jeb Hensarling, R-Tex. said in a statement released last week.
The congressman pointed out that over 98 percent of U.S. exports don’t use the Ex-Im Bank for funding, a fact he believes undermines arguments calling the bank’s reauthorization “critical” to the economy.
"Left liable for these risky loans and guarantees is the American taxpayer. The lesson from the recent Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac fiasco is clear: financial institutions that do not follow market-based principles often cannot survive without a big taxpayer bailout," Americans for Prosperity wrote. "Taxpayers already rescued the failing bank once, costing $3 billion in 1987; they shouldn’t have to bail it out again.
While Senator Kirk lauds often that he's a "fiscal conservative," on the matter of the Ex-Im Bank, he seems to be at odds with the grassroots of his Party.