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Corporate welfare debate hits the Senate floor as Pat Toomey knocks the Export-Import Bank

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The battle over the Export-Import Bank has been joined.

Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., of the Banking Committee took to the Senate floor today to critique the federal agency, which subsidizes U.S. exports by backstopping private bank loans to foreign companies and governments.

Toomey's speech comes on the occasion of a nomination for the Ex-Im Board and it follows yesterday's rally House Democrats held in support of the agency.

Toomey spoke of the taxpayers' ballooning exposure via Ex-Im and the agency's noted weaknesses in risk management.

Although the agency funds itself through fees and interest payments, Toomey argued, "Taxpayers are systematically subsidizing the activities of the Ex-Im Bank."

Toomey also argued: "The nature of this process inevitably creates winners and losers back home," pointing out that foreign airlines, which compete with U.S. airlines, get U.S. subsidies.

Toomey stopped short of advocating the agency's abolition, instead saying, "I hope we're going to make some very significant changes when we get to the reauthorization debate in the fall."

Later, however, Toomey called for a trade process aimed at the "mutual and reciprocal phasing out" of subsidies like Ex-Im's.

The agency's authorization expires Sept. 30. If Republicans go against the Democrats, who want an easy reauthorization, this could be a central fight of the 2014 midterm elections, with the GOP battling against corporate welfare and Democrats pushing the corporatist line.

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