Mr./Madam President, I come to the floor today to speak in favor of the Adam Walsh Reauthorization Act, which I am pleased to say passed the Senate yesterday.
I want to thank my colleague, Senator Grassley and Senator Schumer, for their work on this issue.
I was a cosponsor of this bipartisan legislation, which reauthorizes key provisions of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act. The bill, as you know, is named for Adam Walsh, who was abducted and murdered from a Sears department store when he was just six years old. We need to work harder to prevent horrific crimes like this from happening again.
In this regard, federal support is vital to state and local law enforcement efforts to make sure sex offenders can be tracked and monitored. This legislation creates a safer environment for our children by providing needed resources for those on the frontlines.
In particular, the bill assists state and local law enforcement in improving sex offender registries and information sharing, and aids them in locating and apprehending sex offenders.
We know that sex offenders are not afraid to move across state lines. That's why it's critical that to provide the resources needed to fight to keep our children safe from criminal predators and other influences that are dangerous to their safety and well-being.
As a former prosecutor, I know the importance of sex offender registries in equipping our law enforcement officers with every tool available to prevent sex crimes.
When I was County Attorney in Hennepin County, I saw firsthand the pain and heartbreak caused by sexual abuse to survivors and their families. During that time, I made aggressive prosecution of those who victimized children a top priority.
I wish I could say the tragedy that befell Adam Walsh was an isolated, one-time incident, but it is still happening, every day, all across the country. Just earlier this month in Saint Paul, Minnesota, a 7-year-old girl was abducted within one minute of being out of her father’s sight. The girl was luckier than some. Police found her and arrested her alleged abductor within hours of her abduction, but still the scars of that traumatic event will haunt her for the rest of her life.
I am hopeful that we can come together to help prevent these horrible crimes and ensure that the Adam Walsh Reauthorization Act becomes law. Now that the Senate has passed this commonsense legislation on a bipartisan basis, the House should do the same.
Mr. President, I now rise to speak to another topic, and that is my strong support the Ex-Im Bank, The Export-Import Bank. With the leadership of many in this chamber including Senators Cantwell and Heitkamp, Senator Brown and Senator Graham, and many others on both sides of the aisle, we were able to reauthorize the Ex-Im late last year.
Currently, only two of the five Ex-Im Board seats are filled. I repeat -- only two of the five Ex-Im Board seat are filled. That is not functional. As a result, the Ex-Im Board cannot approve loan guarantees and other financing tools for medium- and long-term transactions valued in excess of $10 million. And the Board cannot put the reforms in place that were an important part of the reauthorization bill, so we have some of my colleagues that actually voted for this bill or some that didn't, but all of them said it should be reformed. Oh, there should be changes. We put those reforms in place. We got it reauthorized. It was a will of the Senate and the Congress and the President to get it reauthorized. It got reauthorized, but now it still cannot function for any new transactions of any significant size, nor can any of the reforms put in place. Why? Because it is the dysfunctional situtation that only two of the five Board seats are filled.
In January, J. Mark McWatters was nominated to serve on the Ex-Im Board. He is qualified nominee, and by confirming Mr. McWatters, we can give the Ex-Im Bank the quorum it needs to support American businesses that want to sell products overseas.
The Export-Import Bank Reform and Reauthorization Act of 2015 that was included in our transportation bill, the FAST Act, included several changes to the existing structure of the Ex-Im Bank, including risk-management policies, fraud controls, and ethics reforms, as well as promoting exports for small businesses.
Under these reforms, small-business financing would be increased, electronic documents systems would be modernized, the Bank’s fraud controls would be reviewed, and the risk to taxpayers would be reduced.
But without a quorum and Board approval, I repeat without having this additional person confirmed, a Republican nominee, without having this additional person confirmed, Ex-Im is not able to adopt the accountability measures or update the loan limits so that American business have access to the financing they need to compete globally.
The governance measures in the Ex-Im Reauthorization strengthen oversight of the Bank’s operations and procedures. They would establish the Office of Ethics, headed by a Chief Ethics Office that reports directly to the Ex-Im Board. And they would also create a Chief Risk Officer and Committee, which is designed to oversee the Bank’s operations, conduct stress tests of the Bank’s portfolio, monitor exposure and risk levels, and review Ex-Im’s default rate reports.
These are all issues that were raised by those who wanted to either get rid of the bank or greatly change the bank, right? So we put a number of these reforms in place. Why can't we redact reforms? Because my colleagues on the other side of the aisle are not allowing a Republican nominee to ge ton this Board. That is the definition of dysfunction.
These reforms will help the Bank function better and protect taxpayer resources, which my colleagues claim they wanted to do, protect taxpayer resources, yet we can't put the reforms in place.
The Ex-Im Reauthorization also modified certain loan terms and increased the threshold for mid-term and long-term financings and for small business working capital loans and guarantees. The increased financing amounts will help U.S. businesses access international markets.
When our companies are competing against overseas companies for contracts, they need the EXIM Bank.
In 2015, the Ex-Im Bank provided support for $17 billion in U.S. exports, not million, $17 billion in U.S. exports. That is a lot of jobs. That means $17 billion of products from our country made in the U.S.A., made by American workers. It sounds like a lot. The cap that we have in place now is $135 billion for total outstanding financings, but a recent article in The Financial Times show the China Development Bank and the Export-Import Bank of China combined had an estimated $684 billion in total development finance. We're out there at $17 billion with a cap of $135 billion.
We need to make Ex-Im fully functioning so that it can approve all deals, just like its counterpart in China, just like its counterpart in other developed nations. And we also want to put these reforms in place so that many of our friends on the other side of the aisle wanted to see. If we don’t, countries like China are going to eat our lunch.
And it’s not just China. There are about 85 credit export agencies in over 60 other countries, including all major exporting countries. Our companies are competing against foreign businesses, which are backed by their own countries’ credit export programs and often receive other government subsidies. Why would we want to make it harder for our own companies, American companies, to create jobs right here at home? That's what we're doing. We realized the Congress and certainly the President, that we needed to reauthorize the Bank, but now we are not able to function and put simply one more Board member on. We don't have a quorum to make decisions. That Board member, I note, is a Republican nominee.
If we want a level playing field for our businesses, we need to have the Export-Import Bank open and running.
This is about jobs. In 2015, the Ex-Im Bank provided $17 billion in financing that supported 109,000 U.S. jobs. And this is despite the fact that the Ex-Im’s charter lapsed between July and December of last year. Literally they could only do their work for half the year.
We need to make sure the Ex-Im Bank is able to help small businesses, American businesses, grow and reach markets all over the world.
The Ex-Im Bank offers loans, loan guarantees and export credit insurance. Increased accountability and oversight are needed to make sure these programs are strong.
Since we reauthorized the EXIM Bank, 649 transactions worth $1.8 billion have been approved – supporting hundreds of U.S. small businesses. These small-business owners, like the many I have met with in Minnesota, told me that the Ex-Im Bank is essential for their ability to access new and emerging markets all over the world.
Balzer, there's an example, an agricultural equipment manufacturer with 75 employees based in Mountain Lake, Minnesota – a town of 2,000. They now export about 15 percent of total sales with the help of the Ex-Im Bank. Over the past five years, Ex-Im financing has supported over $1.7 million in exports for Balzer, but if they got bigger, if they became a medium size company, a medium size company wanted to do something over $10 million, wanted to do something new -- if someone wants to get a new loan, they cannot approve the financing.
Do you think they're doing that in China? Do you think they're doing that in any other developed nation, where they say, well, we're just going to have two of the five people on this Board so they can keep doing some of the work, some of the smaller companies, which are really important. But we're not getting to let them do anything where they're competing for a major contract. That is what we're doing right now in Congress.
Take Ralco – a small-animal feed manufacturer in Marshall – a town of about 13,500 in my state. It is a third-generation family business that just celebrated its 45th anniversary. It exported to over 20 countries. Over the last five years, Ex-Im has provided financing that supports nearly $11.7 million in exports for Ralco.
Well, if that was just in one contract for over ten million right now, and it was new financing, they wouldn't be able to get it approved because of the fact that we have decided that the banking committee and this Congress has decided to stall out, approve the Ex-Im Bank but really cut off its ability for any major new financing. That's what's happening right now.
How about Superior Industries in Morris, Minneosta. Superior manufactures bulk material processing and handling systems. There are 5,000 people in that town, and 500 people in Morris work at the company. That is 10 percent of the population. And Ex-Im has provided financing that supports nearly $3.1 million in exports for Superior over the last five years.
And the list goes on.
These are not large corporations. These are family businesses and smaller companies that are essential to the economic well-being of their towns and even counties.
The EXIM Bank helps these small businesses from all over my state compete and export. These are success stories, and we need more of them. These are stories we’re hearing from every state. These are the stories we want to hear – not stories as we are hearing about companies that are actually closing down operations, that are laying off employees because they're not able to access the new financing they need to make major deals because guess where it's going? It's going to foreign companies whose countries have the foresight and have their act together in their parliaments or in their congresses so they don't leave three or five positions open on their financing authority board.
EXIM has many transactions waiting for Board approval – there are about $10 billion in deals waiting in this pipeline. So when my colleagues talk about creating jobs and doing things, there are $10 billion in private deals in the pipeline simply waiting to have one Board member, one Board member put on so that we could get this done.
The Ex-Im Bank reauthorization passed with broad bipartisan support. We need to confirm J. Mark McWatters and put in place these important reforms, and start approving transactions so that our businesses can export to the world.
Usually sometimes people stall out a confirmation because someone is viewed as too extreme or there's some problem with their record. This is a Republican nominee to fill a Republican place on the Board.
We need to get this done. Our workers, our businesses, and our country are counting on us to get this done.
I ask my colleagues to urge the banking committee to get this nominee through or to somehow with some other procedural genius way bring this to the floor so we can get it done.
Thank you, Mr. President. I yield the floor.