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The House voted Wednesday to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank for another three years, permitting the agency to continue providing hundreds of millions of dollars in trade assistance to U.S. firms.
Lawmakers approved the plan 330 to 93, easily surpassing the two-thirds majority needed to pass the measure under a suspension of the normal House rules. All 183 Democrats voted for the bill, along with 147 Republicans, but 93 GOP lawmakers voted against it.
Signaling how quickly Congress hopes to resolve a weeks-long dispute on the agency, Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) has said that the Senate likely will move quickly to approve the measure.
The agency’s charter expires this month, and the bank is on the verge of hitting a $100 billion borrowing limit. The proposal approved Wednesday would raise the bank’s borrowing limit to $140 billion over the next three years. The limit would jump to $120 billion immediately, and then by $10 billion the next two years, so long as the bank’s default rates stay below 2 percent. As part of the deal, the Treasury Department will have to submit regular reports on the status of negotiations with other countries to cut or reduce import and export subsidies.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.)and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) reached a deal on the reauthorization late Friday, paving the way for Wednesday’s vote. Business and manufacturing groups hailed the bipartisan agreement, saying reauthorization is necessary in order to assure continued economic growth.
Before Friday’s deal, the issue had wallowed for weeks with resolution in doubt after conservative House Republicans balked at plans to grow government spending by authorizing more money for the bank. But it has provided more than $33 billion this year in export finance, with most of it benefiting smaller firms, a key priority of House GOP leaders.
Thomas J. Donohue, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, hailed the deal as great news for American businesses, noting that other countries are providing an estimated $1 trillion in export finance “on terms more generous than Ex-Im can provide.” He said failure to reauthorize the bank “would amount to unilateral disarmament and cost tens of thousands of American jobs.
National Association of Manufacturers President Jay Timmons said the deal “brings us a step closer to protecting [manufacturing] jobs and will be a vital tool for small manufacturers exporting to new markets.” He bemoaned that some lawmakers had been working to eliminate the bank, which he called “a vital tool for job creation.”
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