Reid: ‘We Don’t Pick and Choose Winners and Losers’ with Ex-Im Bank Subsidies

By Matt Cover | May 10, 2012 | 4:51 PM EDT

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). (AP Photo/Las Vegas Sun, Steve Marcus)

( – Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Congress does not pick “winners and losers” when it passes legislation like the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank.

Instead, he argued, if major corporations like Boeing benefit from government subsidies, it is because they deserve them.

At a Capitol Hill press conference on Thursday, asked Reid, “Last year, Boeing received about 44 percent of all assistance from the bank -- it's the second-largest defense contractor, it's one of America's largest exporters. Is it right that such a large share of the bank's assistance go to a company that not only receives a lot of federal dollars but is already so large?”

Reid said, “When we pass these bills, we don’t pick and choose winners and losers. Boeing has been a very stable company in this country for a long, long time. So I’m glad Boeing’s using it, and I hope other companies do the same.”

Boeing received nearly 40 percent ($12.4 billion) of all Export-Import Bank assistance in 2011. The Export-Import Bank makes subsidized loans, loan guarantees, and sales insurance to American exporters to help them sell their products overseas.

House Minority Whip Eric Cantor of Va., left, and House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Boeing was also the second-largest defense contractor, according to the federal General Services Administration, which reported that it received $20.2 billion in defense contracts in 2011.

Senator Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) said the subsidies were necessary because Boeing’s competitors, notably European airline manufacturer Airbus, received subsidies from their governments. If the United States did not subsidize Boeing, it would be at a competitive disadvantage, he said.

“Look what they’re up against,” he said. “Look at Boeing’s competitors around the world. Airbus, does Airbus have any help from government? Of course. What is the next competitor coming up? China. Does China have help from their government when it comes to establishing their air competition? Of course.”

“For us to say, ‘When it comes to Boeing, we’re not going to provide government loans to help them sell [airplanes],’ that’s tying not only a hand behind their back but it’s just ignoring reality,” said the senator.

Durbin also said that Export-Import subsidies do not just help Boeing, but aid its large network of suppliers as well, saying that the bank’s lending supports jobs all along the supply chain.

(AP Photo/Reed Saxon, File)

“And keep in mind it isn’t just Boeing, it’s Boeing and all its suppliers and all its contractors, which are massive all across the United States, major employer[s] in many states across the union,” he said.

Durbin echoed Reid’s claim that if Boeing qualified for the loans, it should get them, even though Boeing is already a large, successful company.

“So, if they qualify – and they do – Ex-Im Bank assistance helps our homegrown aircraft industry to have a chance to fight in global competition,” said Durbin.

The House of Representatives passed a bill extending the bank’s charter until 2014 by a 330-93 vote. (The 93 nay votes were all Republican votes.) The Senate must now either take up the House-passed bill or pass one of its own. However, because the bank’s current charter expires May 31, it is unlikely the Senate will pass a new, stand-alone measure.