Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he plans to set a vote to keep the U.S. Export-Import Bank in business as House Republicans debate whether to let the agency lapse when its charter expires in September.
“I hope to have a vote before Sept. 30,” Reid, a Nevada Democrat, said in an interview today.
The agency that helps overseas companies buy U.S. products is facing the biggest test in its 80-year history as House Republicans, with the backing of Majority Leader-elect Kevin McCarthy of California, press to shut the bank. McCarthy said June 22 that private lenders can offer the loan guarantees and other financing the bank offers to foreign companies.
The debate highlights a split between factions of the Republican party: Tea Party-aligned members who back smaller government and oppose the bank, and lawmakers who support some aid for businesses big and small.
Senate Republicans, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, today stopped short of joining McCarthy’s call to let the bank’s charter expire.
“I’m certainly listening to the critics, but I also recognize the potential problems of unilateral disarmament when it comes to the United States dealing with its export products,” Senator John Cornyn, the No. 2 Republican, said today in an interview.
“Maybe there’s some areas where we can reform it and deal with some of the problems the critics are pointing to without harming our domestic manufacturers and exporters,” Cornyn said. “So we’re looking at all of that.”
President Barack Obama has proposed reauthorizing the bank for five years. The plan would raise the cap on total loans the bank can guarantee to $160 billion from $140 billion now.
The lender last year approved 3,842 requests to buy U.S. products valued at $37.4 billion, according to its annual report. Small businesses accounted for 89 percent of the total number of deals, it said.
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