President Barack Obama and former president Bill Clinton used the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit to push for the Export-Import Bank’s reauthorization.
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.”
Clinton also dismissed conservative resistance to the reauthorization of the bank, saying that he’s “heard more ridiculous things about the Ex-Im Bank in the last six months than I have in my adult life.”
““Economics is not theology,” Clinton said. “If you’re running a country, you’ve got to try to create an opportunity for all your businesses to be competitive.”
Obama called the bank’s Sept. 30 reauthorization deadline “critical” for U.S. businesses and said it could simultaneously help Africa’s development.
Chairman of the Committee on Financial Services Jeb Hensarling, R-Tex., described the president’s effort to renew the bank as an “international arms race to the bottom funded with taxpayer subsidies for his friends at Fortune 500 companies.”
“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,” Hensarling said in a statement released Friday.
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.
In the 2013 fiscal year, the bank’s financing to Africa hit an all-time high of $6.6 billion according to its annual report.
However, The Washington Post claims the expiration of the Ex-Im Bank will have little effect on U.S. businesses with interests in Africa, citing the fact that the bank backed a mere 3 percent of U.S. merchandise exports to the area in 2013.