WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama on Wednesday met with a quiche-maker, an organic coffee roaster, a music-stand manufacturer and other small companies whose travails he said deserve urgent attention from lawmakers and the media.
The companies have put new orders on hold after the U.S. Export-Import Bank was forced to halt new loan guarantees and trade insurance to exporters on June 30 because of a fight in Congress.
"I know it's not as interesting as some of the other issues, and Donald Trump, and all that stuff," Obama told reporters after his meeting.
"But I'll tell you what: this is actually something that matters to people on the ground," he said.
The 81-year-old Ex-Im Bank saw its charter lapse after conservatives in Congress cast it as a promoter or "crony capitalism" for multinational companies.
Obama's meeting was aimed at demonstrating that the bank helps small and medium-sized players, too.
"It is true that Boeing is able to sell planes and GE is able to sell big turbine engines in part because of this kind of financing," Obama said.
But the bank also helps businesses with as few as 12 employees, who pay fees and are not subsidized, Obama said.
"Every other advanced country on earth has a program like this in order to promote their businesses when they're selling overseas," Obama said.
"For us to be the only country that leaves these outstanding companies high and dry makes absolutely no sense," he said, urging lawmakers to renew the charter before they leave for their August break.
A renewal of the bank's charter could hitch a ride this month on an unrelated transportation funding bill.
But major differences between the House and Senate versions of the highway bill could delay an Ex-Im revival. The bank's next chance for a reprieve would be a major government funding measure needed by Sept. 30, the start of the new fiscal year and the date Ex-Im's operating budget runs out