US Congress votes to reauthorize Ex-Im Bank

By Jim Abrams, AP

WASHINGTON–The government’s vehicle for promoting U.S. export sales survived a challenge from conservatives Tuesday with a Senate vote to renew the charter of the Export-Import Bank for three years. The vote, coming after the Senate rejected amendments to weaken or kill the bank, sends the measure to President Barack Obama for his signature.

The bill, which passed the House of Representatives last week, also raises the independent federal agency’s lending cap from the current US$100 billion to US$140 billion. The vote was 78-20.

The bank, which has been renewed several dozen times with little notice since it was established in 1934, became caught this year between business groups that strongly support it and conservative organizations, such as the Club for Growth, that said the bank is market-distorting and should be abolished. Obama has pushed for its renewal, saying it is key to his job-promoting goal of doubling exports over a five-year period.

A side issue has been the split between supporters of Boeing Co., the Ex-Im Bank’s largest beneficiary, and Delta Air Lines, which has claimed that its bottom line has been hurt because its foreign competitors, such as Air India, have used Ex-Im financing to buy Boeing’s newest aircraft.

Without congressional action, the bank’s charter would have expired at the end of this month. It is also close to going over its lending cap.

Obama said in a statement following the Senate vote that reauthorization of the Ex-Im Bank will help businesses create jobs at home and sell products abroad without cost to taxpayers.

“Congress should continue to do the right thing by acting on proposals we know will grow our economy and create jobs. In the meantime, I look forward to signing this bill into law,” Obama said.

The vote, said the bank’s chairman and president Fred Hochberg, most importantly “gives our exporters a clear signal that we are there for them and that they will have a reliable Ex-Im Bank.”