President Obama on Wednesday signed legislation reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank, hailing the government apparatus as an important tool to promote U.S. exports and tying it to his campaign message of building a stronger middle class.

Obama had championed the renewal of the bank, whose charter would have expired Thursday, over opposition from some conservatives in Congress, who said the institution distorted the free market.

File photo: President Barack Obama arriving to speak at the Export-Import Bank's annual conference in Washington. (Charles Dharapak/AP)

The Ex-Im Bank, as it is known, provides low-interest, government-backed loans to foreign entities that purchase American-made goods. The institution’s charter is extended through September 2014, and its financing authority was raised to $120 billion and will grow to $140 billion.

The bank extension legislation eventually was approved by Congress with bipartisan support, which Obama touted as proof that Washington can still get work done in an increasingly partisan election year.

“I’m glad Congress got this done. I’m grateful to members of both parties for coming together,” the president said during brief remarks at a bill-signing ceremony. “Now, we’ve got to do more.”

Obama has emphasized recent manufacturing gains as critical to the U.S. economic recovery, visiting factories across the country to push his agenda. He used the signing ceremony to reiterate his economic message, saying that as companies sell more goods abroad they will be able to create more jobs, preferably in the United States.

And he again pushed Congress to support his so-called “to-do list,” a series of small-scale proposals that include tax breaks for companies that return jobs from overseas, a job bank for military veterans and low-interest loans for homeowners seeking to refinance.

The president has sought to use the “to-do list” to pressure Republicans and cast them as unwilling to support measures that would boost the economy. GOP adversaries have argued that the president must tackle the soaring deficit before adding new spending priorities.

Noting the economic slowdown in Europe, Obama said there are “headwinds” confronting the U.S. recovery and stressed that it is “critical for us to make sure we are moving full-speed ahead.”

“We shouldn’t have to wait until the election to do some of this business,” he said of his proposals.