Call it the Ex-Im exhale. We can all breathe easier now that Congress belatedly — and a tad circuitously — has reauthorized the Export-Import Bank. It won final congressional approval last week, and President Barack Obama signed it into law Friday. Washington state and Yakima Valley companies large and small now have some certainty that they can conduct business across international borders.

One of the large companies is among the world’s most prominent businesses, one that became a lightning rod over conservatives’ criticism that the Ex-Im Bank is corporate welfare. The Boeing Co., which employs tens of thousands of workers in this state, is the largest single customer of the bank, which has helped allow Boeing to sell planes all over the world.

But smaller companies benefit, too, and the lengthy debate that led to the untimely and unnecessary expiration of the bank on June 30 carried the side effect of highlighting some of those businesses. One of them is Yakima’s Manhasset Specialty Co., which has credited the Ex-Im Bank for securing business with customers in more than 20 countries, including China. Manhasset is far from alone; more than a dozen Yakima Valley companies have used the bank — and employed local workers in the process.

The range of businesses showcases how the bank is not so much corporate welfare as a tool that enables companies, especially American companies, to conduct business across international borders. As the official export credit agency of the United States, the bank helps American exporters or foreign buyers that otherwise can’t get financing, and it also works with private banks to guarantee loans.

A curious constituent won’t find a stand-alone roll call vote on the Ex-Im Bank. That’s because its reauthorization legislation was attached to the five-year, $305 billion transportation bill that funds a range of highway and transit projects. While we applaud the end result, the machinations and more than five-month delay unnecessarily hampered businesses that had used Ex-IM before its expiration.

The bank has been around for more than 80 years, and Congress has reauthorized it 16 times. The most recent reauthorization found bipartisan backing; one of its champions was Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell, and 4th District Republican Rep. Dan Newhouse of Sunnyside also supported it. Finally, the bank can get back to its business, which is helping businesses and their employees.

 

• Members of the Yakima Herald-Republic editorial board are Sharon J. Prill, Bob Crider, Frank Purdy and Karen Troianello.