The U.S. Senate has voted to renew the charter of the Export-Import Bank, keeping the 81-year-old institution alive in the face of opposition from conservative Republicans.
Ex-Im’s charter, which expired in June, is now reauthorized through fiscal 2019. Renewal of its charter was included in a five-year, $305 billion federal transportation measure that passed the Senate late Thursday on an 83-16 vote. The House passed the bill earlier in the day on a 359-65 vote.
“We brought the Export-Import Bank back to life so American manufacturers and workers can compete against our foreign competitors on a level playing field,” Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) said in a statement. “We should ship goods, not jobs, overseas.”
The small federal agency makes and guarantees loans to help foreign customers buy U.S. exports. Business groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce say it’s necessary for U.S. competitiveness, since most overseas competitors rely on similar government help.
Last year the bank authorized $20 billion worth of transactions that supported $27.5 billion of U.S. exports and 164,000 U.S. jobs.
“We applaud the determined work of those congressional leaders who have acted to protect the competitiveness of American companies,” said U.S. Chamber President Thomas J. Donohue.
As the Los Angeles Times reports, conservatives in Congress, pushed by the billionaire donor Koch brothers, arrayed against the bank, decrying it as corporate welfare and government interference in the free market.
After Congress failed to act when the bank’s charter was up for renewal June 30, allowing it to expire for the first time in its history, a bipartisan group of lawmakers collected enough votes to force a floor vote on the bank over the objections of top GOP leaders. As a result, the proposal to renew the charter ended up in the highway bill.
Opponents say they will prevail when Ex-Im comes up for renewal in 2019. “We believe we’re putting the final nails in the coffin of Ex-Im,” said Marc Short, president of the Koch-backed Freedom Partners.