Several Republican congressmen have written to U.S. Export-Import Bank President Fred Hochburg, asking some probing questions about the business plan the bank submitted to Congress last month. They rightly express concern about the bank’s operations and risk management. They also cite the nondiversified portfolio of the bank, with its high reliance on the aircraft sector (which has long been about half of the bank’s exposure) singled out for particular concern. The letter, in short, gives a good indication of where bodies are buried at Ex-Im.
All this is very well, of course, except for one problem: most of the issues the congressmen raise have been a concern for many years, and yet Majority Leader Eric Cantor, one of the letter’s signatories, earlier this year negotiated not only an extention of the bank’s mandate (he agreed to extend it until 2014), but also an increase in its lending ceiling, with a few lily-livered “reforms” tacked on. Now he’s asking questions?
Mr. Cantor isn’t alone, of course; plenty of members from both sides of the aisle (including “tea-party” folks) voted for the reauthorization. But the concerns the letter raises are serious, longstanding, and were ultimately solvable by deauthorizing the bank’s charter altogether. And yet Mr. Cantor balked at that opportunity.
I should point out that one of the other signatories to this letter, Rep. Jim Jordan, and the Republican Study Committee he chairs, were behind a push to wind down the bank.
[Editor’s Note: See Cato’s new essay on ending the Export-Import Bank for more on this issue.]