Congress Fights Over Future Of Export Bank


WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ Since the Export-Import Bank was founded in 1934, Congress has methodically renewed its charter two dozen times with little or no controversy, attesting to the independent federal agency's low-key, generally well-regarded mission of helping finance American companies' overseas sales.

This year, however, with Congress at its dysfunctional worst, it's different.

In the Senate, reauthorization of the Ex-Im Bank enjoys wide bipartisan support, but Democrats and Republicans can't agree on a voting process. In the House, Republicans are torn between their business allies who are strong Ex-Im backers and conservative groups which say the agency should be eliminated. Add to that a dispute between Boeing Co., a major beneficiary of Ex-Im financing, and Delta Air Lines, which says such financing has hurt its bottom line.

House leaders said Friday they had come up with a plan that could, if it satisfies House critics and Senate supporters, keep the bank in business.

The bank's current charter expires at the end of this month. At about the same time, the institution will hit its statutory lending cap of $100 billion.

In March, Senate Democrats proposed renewing the bank's charter for four years and raising the lending cap to $140 billion. But when they tried to attach that to a bill promoting small business investment, Republicans rebelled and shot it down.

Republicans said they were happy to take up the bank's renewal as a separate measure subject to a few amendments, but didn't want it slowing down passage of the small business bill, a GOP favorite. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., insisted, saying the renewal needed to be attached to the small business measure, or another bill heading for passage, to have a chance of getting through the House.

That moved the action to the House, where Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., who originally sought a shorter and more restrictive reauthorization, and the House's second-ranked Democrat, Steny Hoyer of Maryland, have been working for weeks on a compromise.

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