Welcome to Shelbyville: Ex-Im Bank Hobbled as Nomination Remains Bottled Up

Sen. Richard Shelby
Sen. Richard Shelby

The Export Import Bank remains hobbled as Senate Banking Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) refuses to consider President Barack Obama’s nomination of J. Mark McWatters nomination to fill an open seat on the bank’s board.

Until the position is filled, the bank cannot provide financing for U.S. export deals worth more than $10 million. This has left Boeing, SpaceX, satellite manufacturers and other companies that have used the bank in the lurch.

The bank’s authorization lapsed last summer, causing it to temporarily shut down. Congress reauthorized it late last year, but McWatter’s nomination has remained in limbo since the president made it in January.

Shelby and other conservatives have criticized the bank as “corporation welfare” for large companies that should be able to obtain financing on a commercial basis.

Supporters say the bank is necessary because similar institutions exist overseas to finance exports. American companies would be at a disadvantage without the bank.

Dave Melcher, president & CEO Aerospace Industries Association, called the Ex-Im Bank’s problems a “self-inflicted wound” in remarks delivered during the annual Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colo., on April 12.

“During the several months that Congress failed to act on the Bank’s future, U.S. satellite manufacturing companies and the small companies that support them lost at least three major satellites sales to foreign competitors and possibly launch service contracts as well,” he said.

“We’re gratified that Congress heeded our call and voted in December to keep Ex-Im going strong.,” he added. “But we still need the Senate to confirm the President’s nomination of Mark McWatters, a Republican, to the Bank’s Board of Directors so that Ex-Im can fully function in supporting major U.S. export sales, including hopefully more space exports.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Senate Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) have recently called upon Shelby to move on the McWatters nomination to no avail.