Did you like the last shutdown of the federal government last October, which lasted more than two weeks and cost taxpayers a cool $25 billion? Look no further than the end of the year, when it could happen all over again, so speculates Ohio senior U.S Senator, Sherrod Brown.
If comments made during a 30-minute conference call with reporters today are prescient, what happened nine months ago could happen again this fall. Taking questions following a press briefing on why the Charter of the Export-Import Bank [Ex-Im] needs to be reauthorized, Sen. Brown said that while he thinks the odds of another shutdown are less than fifty-fifty, he doesn’t rule out that Republicans might again choose to pursue a Tea Party-inspired Kamikaze strategy to stop Washington from working.
The impasse could arrive as Congress debates refunding of the Highway Trust Fund, a sad situation that again focuses on updating the nation’s sagging transportation infrastructure, or it could be another important bill that Congress can’t agree on. Regardless of the basis behind why House Republicans might again try to thwart President Obama’s agenda, Sen. Brown confessed, reluctantly, that the possibility exists.
The 61-year old champion of manufacturers and workers said that if Congress does not reauthorize the charter for the Ex-Im Bank, about 205,000 export-related American jobs will be at risk.
Brown was joined today by John Granby, Vice President for Government Relations at LION, a Dayton manufacturer that produces safety and training gear for fire and rescue teams, law enforcement, and military personnel.
More than 250 Ohio businesses, including 178 small businesses, have received critical financial assistance from the Ex-Im Bank to support $2 billion of exports since 2007. Congress could turn the lights out on this export party if it doesn’t act by starving to death. Brown’s office released a county-by-county report compiled by the Ex-Im Bank that details the impact on Ohio from not extending its charter by its expiration date, September 30.
“The Export-Import Bank lets small business owners focus on exporting their products, instead of worrying about their financing,” Brown said in prepared remarks following the call. “The Export-Import Bank provides small and mid-sized businesses – particularly manufacturers – the assistance they need to help boost their exports,” he said. Companies that export their products around the world, he said, create jobs, pay higher wages to employees, and are more likely to stay in business. “That is why Congress must take immediate action to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank and ensure this crucial agency can continue to provide assistance to Ohio businesses.”
Granby said LION is a privately held mid-sized manufacturer of specialty clothing that provides approximately 350 jobs in total related to its products, from its Kentucky manufacturing location to its corporate headquarters in Dayton. LION is one of the last apparel companies still making the majority of its products in the US, Granby said, adding that one of the company’s biggest customers is a government agency in a foreign country to whom 18,000-20,000 products have been shipped since 2006. EX-IM’s Trade Credit Insurance helps to reduce the substantial financial risk related to the sale of LION’s products on open credit. “Those who are opposed to the EX-IM bank are absolutely ignorant about the important role it plays in supporting US jobs,” Grandy said.
Sen. Brown, a member of the Manufacturing Caucus, has introduced a package of key legislative proposals aimed at boosting the competiveness of U.S. manufacturers, and boosting domestic manufacturing. A former two-term Secretary of State for Ohio in the 1980s, Sen. Brown also serves as a member of the President’s Export Council, where he helps advance the National Export Initiative designed to reach the president’s goal to double exports by 2015.
Closer to home, Sen. Brown said of the need to act now on refunding the Highway Transportation Trust, “If we don’t do this in time, Ohio could lose $400 million,” identifying highway projects like Route 224 in Boardman that would be impacted. Sen. Brown also said he’ll push for a longer five-six year funding cycle, not the six or nine month intervals that have become all too frequent since Republicans reclaimed the House in 2010. “That makes no sense,” he said, adding that long term planning is needed for purposes of predictable for state and local transportation officials.
When asked if the expected fight over the highway funding bill could lead to another shutdown of the federal government later this year, Sen. Brown said he believes there’s a less than fifty-fifty chance that would happen, but he acknowledged the possibility exists. A threat to shutdown Washington again, he said, might have as its driving force a strategy to turn federal funding over to states. “They think that’s a good idea. I don’t think a government shutdown is ever a good idea, but some don’t learn their lessons,” he said, clearly exasperated by the mind-set of Washington’s Tea Party caucus.