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Export-Import Bank Bill Hits Snag in Senate

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (left) held a press conference today to urge the Senate to pass a House measure to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank.

Updated: 6:13 p.m.

With a bill to avert a doubling of student loan interest rates stalled, Senate Democratic leaders are finding it difficult to move on to a House passed bill reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank.

“There is no good reason why we shouldn’t pass this bill passed by the House,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said at a press conference today.

The House passed the measure 330-93 with broad bipartisan support; the bill was crafted by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), and it has been a priority of the Obama administration.

Given the overwhelming House vote, Senate Democratic leaders had hoped to pass the measure by unanimous consent and get it off their “to do” list.

But Republicans want to offer amendments to the bill and talks have been under way about what amendments the two parties are willing to accept, according to a Senate GOP aide. Nevertheless, Reid filed cloture on the measure today, setting up a procedural vote for Monday night. If an agreement is reached on amendments, the vote may not take place, a Senate Democratic aide said.

Democrats need Republican support to begin debate on the legislation, but that will likely depend on whether the GOP feels it will get sufficient opportunity to offer amendments, the Republican aide said.

The bank is designed to facilitate the purchase of U.S. exports to international buyers.

The measure would reauthorize the bank’s charter through Sept. 30, 2014, and incrementally increase its lending cap. By fiscal 2014, the bank would be authorized to lend up to $140 billion, an increase from the $100 billion under current law.

The Ex-Im Bank does have some influential Republican backers in the Senate. Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) is a vocal supporter, who praised passage of the House bill on Wednesday.

“I’m very pleased the House of Representatives authorized Ex-Im Bank for another three years,” Graham said in a release. “Ex-Im allows American manufacturers to compete on a level playing field when it comes to selling their products overseas.”

Supporters of the proposal argue that failure to reauthorize the bank would put U.S. businesses at a disadvantage to their foreign competitors. The bank’s authorization expires May 31, but it will hit its loan limit in about two weeks.

Despite support from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business groups, conservatives oppose the bank. Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) said the banks activities amount to “corporate welfare.”

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