As Virginia’s race for the U.S. Senate heats up, the Export-Import Bank has emerged as a key difference between incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Warner and his Republican challenger, Ed Gillespie.
The candidates faced off for a debate Saturday covering a myriad of topics, including the Export-Import Bank. Warner, who supports the bank’s reauthorization, came under attack from Gillespie, who said the senator was failing to stand up to the special interests.
The Export-Import Bank provides taxpayer-backed loans and loan guarantees to foreign countries and companies. Its charter expires Sept. 30, and Congress is currently debating whether to reauthorize it or not.
When asked about the 80-year-old bank during the debate, Warner pointed to the National Association of Manufacturers and the U.S. Chamber of Congress as two of the most vocal supporters of the agency.
“[Ex-Im] supports American businesses in a global economy, giving them a financial backstop,” he said, according to a report by Politico.
Gillespie, former chairman of the Republican National Committee, said he was sympathetic to the arguments of Ex-Im supporters—who often say the bank helps small businesses compete in the global market and creates jobs in the United States—and noted “it’s an area where we can get some savings.”
But he also criticized Warner for failing to buck the influence of special interests. Gillespie said:
“I know it’s hard to stand up to the Chamber of Commerce [and] the National Association of Manufacturers, but that’s the job of a senator.”
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce teamed up with NAM and more than 800 companies last month for a well-funded campaign designed to rally support for Ex-Im.
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, is expected to introduce a bill reauthorizing the bank for five more years before lawmakers break for the month-long August recess, which begins at the end of the week.
But conservatives in the House of Representatives, led by Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, would rather see Ex-Im’s charter expire in September without any action from Congress.
Hensarling has the backing of organizations like Heritage Action for America and Americans for Prosperity in opposing the bank, as they believe it furthers cronyism and corporate welfare.