By Erik Wasson - 03/14/12 04:22 PM EDT
Senate Democrats hope to force Republicans to support reauthorizing the Ex-Im bank by adding an amendment to bipartisan jobs legislation approved by the House.
By combining the two bills, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) hopes to divide Tea Party conservatives from pro-business Republicans, highlighting division within the GOP while moving the Ex-Im bill.
Republicans are divided on the Ex-Im Bank, which has pitted big business groups against conservatives who say the bank’s loan guarantees represent corporate welfare.
Schumer said he hoped adding the Ex-Im measure to the House jobs bill, and then sending the combined measure back to the House, would help both measures reach President Obama’s desk.
“We do know there are some hard on the right who say we should not fund the bank or greatly cut the funding or put mechanisms in place that would make it basically unworkable,” he said.
He said putting the Ex-Im measure on the jobs bill, “which had broad support in the House, will help us get it through the House.”
Schumer joined Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) in announcing that she will offer a reauthorization amendment to the House-passed JOBS Act this week.
The amendment would extend the life of the bank, which expires May 31, through 2015 and raise its loan limit to $140 billion from $100 billion.
That’s different from the approach backed by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), who wants a one-year reauthorization at $113 billion. He also wants to include language in the bill instructing President Obama to negotiate the global end to export financing, sources said.
Cantwell said failure to pass a long-term bill with a robust loan limit would be a “crippling blow” to exports. Boeing, the largest U.S. exporter, and largest single beneficiary of Ex-Im loan guarantees, is based in the state of Washington.
She noted that Ex-Im has generated $3 billion in revenue for the U.S. government since 2005, above its costs, and that it supported 290,000 jobs last year.
Cantwell said that she is confident that Senate Republicans would vote for her amendment, if leadership does not object to it on procedural grounds. Her amendment will need 60 votes to pass.
This week, Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) and the office of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) declined to comment on the merits of a four-year Ex-Im reauthorization.
Ex-Im Chairman Fred Hochberg said his bank is needed to level the playing field with foreign companies.
“Our competition is licking its chops at a weakened Ex-Im Bank,” he said.
Hochberg said a one-year extension does not provide enough business certainty to exporters and their customers. He added any attempt to unilaterally end U.S. export financing would only boost companies like Airbus and Bombardier at the expense of companies like Boeing.
Ex-Im Bank reauthorization is strongly supported by the Chamber of Commerce but opposed by the conservative Club for Growth.