How Delta Airlines And Eric Cantor Are Trying To Strangle U.S. Exports

As we’ve noted, Republicans are are bogging down an attempt to reauthorize the U.S. Export-Import Bank — which helps companies access capital to sell their products abroad — on the grounds that it’s too much government intrusion in the free market. The agency isn’t even funded by taxpayers (though the agency does provide loan guarantees that are backed by tax dollars), but conservatives are still throwing a fit about Democrats’ desire to reauthorize the agency and increase its loan limit from $100 billion to $140 billion.

One of the loudest corporate voices arguing against the bank’s reauthorization is Delta Airlines, while one of the loudest arguing against it in Congress is House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA). And as Politico noted today, Delta and Cantor have more than this policy agreement in common:

A sleepy Export-Import Bank debate in Congress has blossomed into a corporate political brawl matching the powerful Boeing Co. lobby against Delta Air Lines, represented here by a close friend and supporter of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.

The issues are bigger than the personalities, affecting billions of dollars in U.S.-backed loan guarantees supporting the overseas sale of Boeing aircraft. But with pivotal Senate votes now scheduled for Tuesday, Cantor is without a doubt the crucial broker for the House. And Boeing is hammering away at his close ties with Delta lobbyist and confidante Andrea Newman — even as it fields a small army of its own.

If it seems David vs. Goliath, Newman, as Delta’s senior vice president for government affairs, comes with a BlackBerry instead of a slingshot. In an anecdote Cantor’s office denied Friday, he is said to have once emailed her about an aviation bill while still in a members-only meeting with the White House on the subject. And the two enjoy what’s described as a genuine family — University of Michigan — friendship even as she helps him raise campaign funds.

In addition to gumming up the works on the ExIm bank, Delta has been on the wrong side of many a policy fight recently. It’s worst work was pushing Republicans to include a union-busting provision in a bill reauthorizing the Federal Aviation Administration, while ultimately led to an FAA shutdown.

As CAP’s Sabina Dewan has explained, the ExIM bank (yes, in addition to providing some help to giant manufacturers like Boeing) is crucial for smaller exporters that have a hard time accessing financing. But it’s evidently more important for Cantor and crew to throw Delta yet another bone, at the expense of the wider economy.