Connecticut Democrats are pushing back against tea party Republicans, demanding Monday that the GOP-led House of Representatives back a little-known and embattled banking agency that helps finance U.S. exports.
Reps. Joe Courtney and John Larson, flanked by representatives of three Connecticut businesses, strongly backed the Export-Import Bank. The lawmakers urged the House leadership to schedule a vote before the bank's charter expires in September, allowing it to back new loans.
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"This is vitally important that Congress gets this right," Larson said.
The bank, which provides loans, loan guarantees and credit insurance to overseas buyers of U.S. goods, is at the center of a tug-of-war in the Republican Party. Conservatives say it's an example of corporate welfare while other Republicans say the bank promotes trade and helps create jobs.
Oz Griebel, head of the MetroHartford Alliance, which leads the region's economic development efforts, appeared with Courtney and Larson to support Ex-Im. Griebel, who unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination for governor in 2010, said the party's split on the issue is not helping its cause.
With unemployment above 6 percent nationally and in Connecticut, Republicans should understand that renewing Ex-Im will help generate jobs, he said.
"This is not a healthy position for us to be in," Griebel said.
Ex-Im took a hit last month when newly elected House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said he opposed reauthorizing it.
The bank doesn't enjoy universal support from businesses. At a recent House Financial Services Committee hearing, Delta Air Lines CEO Richard Anderson argued that the bank has subsidized foreign airlines' purchases of Boeing aircraft, giving them a competitive advantage.
In Connecticut, Ex-Im identifies 103 businesses in the state as exporters, with $2 billion in exports supported by the bank.
David A. Kahn, vice-president of The Kahn Cos., a Wethersfield business that tests equipment for the aerospace industry, said he'd have to buy costlier private insurance, if it's available, if Congress pulls the plug on Ex-Im.
And Nick Vasile, controller of the Gilman Brothers Co. in Bozrah, which makes foam boards for commercial printers, said he was shocked that the bank was in jeopardy.
In contrast to costly private insurance that's not available in all circumstances, insurance available through the Export-Import Bank to protect against the possibility of default by an overseas customer has been relied on for years by the Gilman Brothers, he said.
"It's a staple. Why would it be going away?" he asked. "It doesn't make any sense to me."