Lee Speaks in Opposition of Ex-Im Bank Nominee

Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) delivered remarks on the Senate Floor regarding Export-Import Bank nominee Mark McWatters.

Remarks as prepared for delivery are available below.

Mr. President: reserving the right to object.

What’s being proposing here today is to unleash the Export-Import Bank from the constraints it is currently under and to allow it to begin authorizing transactions above $10 million. Between 2007 and 2014, 84 percent of the Bank’s subsidy and loan-guarantee deals exceeded $10 million, and the vast majority were given to the wealthiest, most well-connected businesses that should have no problem acquiring financing on the open market.

Mr. President, the Export-Import Bank represents everything the American people despise about Washington. This Great Depression era relic has grown into one of the most treasured favor banks of well-heeled lobbyists, by big government, and for politically favored businesses.

It is an 82-year-old case study in corporate welfare, and for some reason this Senate continues to support it.  

Ex-Im has managed to live through more than 30 corruption and fraud investigations into its system of doling out taxpayer-backed subsidies and loan guarantees to foreign buyers of U.S. exports. And in 2013, for half of the financing deals in its portfolio, Ex-Im was either unable or unwilling to provide any justification whatsoever connected to its mission.

Mr. President, that’s $18.8 billion in estimated export value that apparently had no connection to Ex-Im’s mission.

Many of Ex-Im’s supporters claim that the Bank’s main function is to support small businesses. But this claim doesn’t stand up to even a modest amount of scrutiny.

Look at the institution’s track record: only one-half of one percent of all small businesses in America benefit from Ex-Im financing. And even that tiny figure may be an overestimation because Ex-Im uses such a broad definition of “small business.”

Mr. President, confirming this nominee would allow Ex-Im to return to its old ways of approving massive financing deals for the largest corporations in coordination with the largest banks – all with the backing of American taxpayers.

Permanently ending the Export-Import Bank would be a small but important and symbolic step toward restoring fairness to our economy and our government. It would prove to the American people that their elected representatives in Congress have the courage to eliminate one of the many federal programs that foster cozy relationships between political and economic insiders, providing a breeding ground for cronyism and corruption.

But so long as this Senate remains unwilling to close Ex-Im, we should at the very least make sure that it does not have the ability to further advance its cronyist agenda.

And so, Mr. President, I stand with the senior Senator from Alabama, and I object.