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Export-Import Bank Debate Puts Sanders at Odds With Senate Democrats

Sanders is alone among Senate Democrats on the Export-Import Bank. (Meredith Dake-O'Connor/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Sanders is alone among Senate Democrats on the Export-Import Bank. (Meredith Dake-O'Connor/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

When Democratic presidential candidate Bernard Sanders’ campaign blasted fellow candidate Hillary Clinton this weekend for her support for the Export-Import Bank, it was highlighting an issue on which he stood alone among Senate Democratic caucus members.  

“The Export-Import Bank provides corporate welfare to some of the largest multi-national corporations that are moving jobs to China and stashing their profits in tax havens like the Cayman Islands,” policy director Warren Gunnels said in a statement issued ahead of a Democratic debate in Flint, Mich.  

Sanders, a Vermont independent who caucuses with the Democrats, was the lone member of the caucus to vote against reauthorizing the export financing agency when it came up for votes last year, including on the tests vote in late July that proved a bipartisan group of more than 60 senators supported the underlying reauthorization.  

Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., was critical of Sanders’ votes in a statement issued through the Clinton campaign Sunday.  

“When given the chance to stand on the side of manufacturing jobs, Senator Sanders has showed time and again, that it’s not just a priority,” Dingell’s statement said. “Last year, Senator Sanders was the only Democrat in the Senate to vote with ultra-conservative Republicans to kill the Export-Import Bank, a program critical to Michigan’s manufacturing sector.  

“Hillary Clinton has a clear record in support of American manufacturing, and, unlike Senator Sanders, has outlined a plan for how she will strengthen manufacturing and make the U.S. the location for the next generation of good paying jobs.”  

Michigan and Ohio are two of the Midwest manufacturing states where the Export-Import Bank has been an issue with bipartisan support, with Republican lawmakers there often dismissing the view that the bank is bailing out large corporations that sell products abroad.  

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, another Michigan Democrat who has hit the campaign trail for Clinton, said Thursday that the emphasis during the 2015 debate was reviving the Ex-Im Bank’s charter, which lapsed during the calendar year. That meant focusing on getting commitments from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to put the measure on the floor, rather than trying to cajole Sanders to come on board.  

The supporters finally got their wish for floor time and action by attaching the measure to another  legislative vehicle, namely a highway bill conference report that cleared the Senate and was enacted into law in December.  

With the Senate’s Democratic supporters ranging from the moderate Joe Manchin III of West Virginia to liberal Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Sanders’ position is the kind of outlier that Clinton advocates might be able to capitalize on in places like Detroit.  

The Sanders campaign, meanwhile, is emphasizing statistics showing that top Ex-Im Bank beneficiaries Boeing and General Electric have transferred jobs abroad over the past decades and is expressing doubts that the program benefits small business. The bank’s supporters point to its benefits for small manufacturers in the supply chain for these large companies.


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