A second Senate Republican backed a plan to continue operations of the U.S. Export-Import Bank, which is facing criticism from House Republicans.
Republican Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri yesterday said he supports a proposal from Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, which hasn’t been introduced, to keep the bank operating for five more years and increase the lending cap to $160 billion from $140 billion.
Authorization for the bank, which provides low-cost loans that help foreign companies buy exports from U.S. companies such as Boeing Co. (BA) and General Electric Co. (GE), expires Sept. 30. Renewal of the 80-year-old bank came into question after Representative Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican who was elected the House majority leader, said last month that lawmakers should let the bank expire.
Lawmakers aligned with the limited-government Tea Party movement, including House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling, have made eliminating the bank a top priority.
“It serves a good purpose,” Blunt said about the bank in an interview in Washington. “It allows us to be more competitive in the international marketplace, and serves lots of businesses.”
Senator Mark Kirk, an Illinois Republican, also backs the plan. Manchin said yesterday that his goal is to have five Republican co-sponsors for his proposal.
“I’ve talked to an awful lot of my colleagues who do support it, but there are concerns about how much political flak they’ll catch from it, especially if they have viable primaries left,” Manchin said. “It’s a small percentage that really want to shrink it or eliminate it completely.”
Senator Charles Schumer of New York, the chamber’s No. 3 Democrat, has said the Senate plans to vote on the bank’s reauthorization this month.
Fred Hochberg, chairman of the Export-Import Bank, said he expects the lender will be reauthorized.
“I’m confident that we’ve had bipartisan majorities in the past, we’ll do that again,” Hochberg said in an interview on Bloomberg Television.
Manchin’s plan would ease restrictions approved in December on financing exports for coal-fired power plants.
The Export-Import Bank now requires that countries capture carbon dioxide from the plants and store it underground, a process known as “carbon capture and sequestration.” For the world’s poorest countries, financing is available only if they use the cleanest technology available.
Manchin’s plan would expand which countries are defined as the “poorest” to include India, among others, said Jonathan Kott, a Manchin spokesman.
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