The U.S. Export-Import Bank is likely to have its charter renewed through mid-2015 this week, even though lawmakers in both parties said on Tuesday they see the extension as a second-best solution.
Most Republicans said they would support an extension through June 2015 after influential conservative Representative Jeb Hensarling of Texas, who had pushed to shut the export credit agency down when its charter expires on Sept. 30, said he would back the move.
Democrats are also on board with the extension, which the House of Representatives is expected to consider on Wednesday as part of a bill to fund the government past Sept. 30, even though they would prefer a multi-year extension.
Arkansas Representative Steve Womack, one of the Republicans charged with rounding up votes, expected little push-back on the Ex-Im Bank, which provides insurance to U.S. exporters and makes loans to foreign buyers of U.S. goods ranging from Boeing Co. aircraft to generic medicines.
“That gives both sides of the debate an opportunity to fully voice their opinions on it between now and the end of June, so I expect that will be on the back burner here,” Womack said.
Steny Hoyer, the second-ranking Democrat in the Republican-controlled House, said Democrats are prepared to accept a less-than-perfect outcome for Ex-Im that also keeps the government running.
But the nine-month extension puts 200,000 jobs that rely on exports at risk by giving opposing forces time to marshal their resources against it, he warned – a worry shared by Ex-Im’s Republican supporters.
Although Hensarling and other conservatives have criticized the bank as a symbol of big government and corporate excess, others within the traditionally pro-business party see its benefits for small to medium businesses.
Republican Representative Charles Boustany of Louisiana said Hensarling should come up with an alternative to the bank to help smaller companies that cannot get insurance or loans without Ex-Im support.
“I do believe that the opposition to it will use this time to try to build up opposition,” he said, noting Ex-Im would come up next year as a stand-alone measure, not as part of a funding bill.
“That poses a threat. I think what we will have to do is continue to make the case for why it needs to be reauthorized, challenge those who oppose it to offer an alternative for our small and mid-sized firms.”
(Reporting by Krista Hughes, Emily Stephenson and David Lawder. Editing by Andre Grenon)
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