House members look to extend Israeli loan guarantee program

"Congress will continue to stand foursquare with Israel and provide it, upon request, with loan guarantees that provide a key cushion of support in times of need, at no cost to the American taxpayer," Ros-Lehtinen said.

"Just as we are committed to ensuring Israel's qualitative military edge, we must do what we can to protect Israel's economic strength so it is able to address the many security threats it currently faces," Berman added.

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The current loan guarantee program was established in 2003, extended in 2006, and expired at the end of the last fiscal year. The program allowed the U.S. government to make up to $9 billion in loan guarantees that allow Israel to borrow from commercial lenders at lower interest rates.

The original program allowed for $9 billion in loan guarantees over three years, but the law said that total amount must be reduced by the same amount that Israel is found to be spending on settlements in occupied territories. As a result of that language, the United State reduced its loan guarantee capacity by $1.1 billion, according to a Congressional Research Service (CRS) report on the program.

Israel has only used $4.1 of the remaining $7.9 billion in loan guarantees, leaving $3.8 billion in unused authority.

According to CRS, a 2011 report from the State Department's Office of Inspector General recommended that the program be terminated, in part because Israel has evolved into a "modern, self-sufficient economy capable of supporting its citizens as an industrialized country."

However, CRS also notes that the Obama administration may be considering an extension of the program, and the State Department itself did push for an extension last year, according to a House aide.

Ros-Lehtinen and Berman introduced their bill just as the House is preparing to vote Monday on a bill that would expand access to U.S. work visas for Israeli citizens.

— This story was updated at 3:04 p.m. to correct that the loan guarantee program expired at the end of the last fiscal year, and again at 5:53 p.m. to clarify that the State Department supported extending the program, despite a prior recommendation from the IG.