WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate on Wednesday staged what amounted to a test vote to extend the Export-Import Bank, ahead of its expiration this month.
A full 65 senators were positioned themselves on the side of the bank, while Georgia Republican Sens. Johnny Isakson and David Perdue did not.
The amendment came as the Senate debates a defense authorization bill for next year. Here’s Bloomberg’s Kate Hunter:
Wednesday’s vote was intended to be only a preliminary skirmish over the 81-year-old bank. Senator Kelly Ayotte, a New Hampshire Republican who offered the amendment to reauthorize the bank on behalf of Illinois Republican Mark Kirk, withdrew it after the vote.
The Georgians’ objections were procedural as much as substantive — leaving the door open to supporting an extension of the bank with reforms. Here’s what Perdue said, via a spokeswoman:
“I continue to have deep concerns about how the EXIM Bank is currently constructed. While the Senate is considering critical defense legislation to fund our troops and protect our national security, this is not the appropriate time or place for this debate.”
Isakson spokeswoman Amanda Maddox sounded a similar note:
“Sen. Isakson voted yes on tabling the amendment for a couple of reasons. He did not feel that [the defense authorization bill] was the proper avenue to conduct this vote on Ex-Im. He thinks that the Senate needs to have a full debate to discuss meaningful reforms to the Ex-Im Bank, and this route did not afford that opportunity.”
This multi-year fight has divided the Chamber of Commerce and tea party wings of the Republican Party, and pitted two influential Georgia companies against one another. Some more context from Galloway last year:
The Export-Import Bank should more properly be called a trade agency. Its job is to help finance foreign purchases of U.S. exports.
Tea partyers want the bank condemned to oblivion as a nest of “crony capitalism.” But when it comes to Georgia, hardcore ideology is mere garnishment.
The meat of the matter, the real reason that your congressmen have kept mum, is that the fight over the Export-Import Bank has everything to with the U.S. aircraft industry – those who fly the planes versus those who make them. In Georgia, it pits hometown hero Delta Air Lines against business-plane manufacturer Gulfstream Aerospace Corp., a rising industrial star on the Georgia coast.