The Senate approved legislation today that would reauthorize the Export-Import Bank after rejecting five Republicans amendments, including a proposal to shut down the bank.
The bill was approved 78-20 — with all 20 “no” votes cast by Republicans — and now goes to President Barack Obama for his signature. The House passed the measure last week 330-93.
Passage of the legislation came after the Senate defeated an amendment 12-86 from Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) that after one year of reauthorization would terminate the bank, which is designed to facilitate the purchase of U.S. exports by foreign buyers.
“We need to end the corporate welfare that distorts the market and feeds crony capitalism,” Lee said in a floor speech. “The corporations that largely benefit from the Ex-Im Bank should have no trouble marshaling their resources to compete in today’s economy. If they are struggling, then they are most likely not deserving of taxpayer help, and if they are turning billions in profit, then they clearly do not need taxpayer-subsidized loans.”
Supporters of the bank argue that the measure would help create jobs and benefit the U.S. economy.
“This bank is one of the most powerful tools that we have for manufacturing jobs in America,” Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) said on the Senate floor. “In fiscal 2011 alone, the bank supported nearly 290,000 export-created jobs in America.”
The Export-Import Bank supports 83,000 jobs in Washington state and supports $66 billion in sales from 172 Washington state exporters, including 121 small businesses, over the last five years, according to a Cantwell press release.
An amendment from Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) was defeated 36-62. The amendment would have required a certification that foreign export financing is in the same market and that private financing isn’t available or is prohibitively expensive. It would also require a 10 percent capital cushion at the bank.
A proposal from Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) that would have prohibited bank funds for going to renewable energy projects or overseas fossil fuel projects that compete with similar domestic projects was rejected 37-61.
The Senate defeated an amendment 35-63 from Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) that would have made the release of Ex-Im funds contingent on progress on multilateral negotiations to end the bank.
A proposal from Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) that would prohibit Ex-Im loans to projects in countries that hold U.S. government debt instruments was rejected 9-89.
The bill 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.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) tried to pressure Senate Republicans to accept the House-passed bill without any changes after receiving more than 300 votes in the chamber.
But Democrats ultimately agreed to allow amendments to the bill after Republicans threatened to derail the measure by tanking a procedural vote.
While many Republicans back the bill, conservatives see the bank as a form of corporate welfare that comes at a time when the annual deficit has been more than $1 trillion in recent years.
Conservative groups such as the Club for Growth and Heritage Action opposed the reauthorization.