WASHINGTON — Congress approved a bill Tuesday renewing the charter of the US Export-Import Bank for three years and raising the ceiling on its financing guarantees from $100 billion to $140 billion.
The Senate approved the text 78-20 after the House of Representatives backed the measure last week in a 330-93 vote. The text now goes to President Barack Obama’s desk to be signed into law.
Obama hailed the reauthorization as an “important step” that “will help American businesses create jobs here at home and sell their products around the world — all at no cost to taxpayers.”
In a statement issued by the White House, he said last year’s financing, the most in the bank’s 77-year-history, “brought us closer to the goal I set of doubling our nation’s exports by the end of 2014.”
The bill came just days before the Ex-Im bank’s charter was due to expire at the end of the month. It was the subject of much debate, with some Tea Party conservatives in the House arguing that government subsidies to the bank hampered the free market economy.
Aeronautics giant Boeing, one of the biggest US exporters, is among the main beneficiaries of Ex-Im’s loan guarantees.
Several senators from states where Boeing builds aircraft, including Republican Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Washington Democrat Maria Cantwell, urged their colleagues to back the measure.
“We cannot afford to give an inch to our global competitors,” Senate Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid said.
“Canada, France and India already provide seven times the assistance to their exporters that America does. China and Brazil provide 10 times the support.”
Critics have long argued that Ex-Im subsidies favor certain companies over others.
US airliners such as Delta have complained that the bank offers loans with advantageous rates to foreign firms to purchase planes in the United States.
But backers of the bill said the Ex-Im bank had supported 288,000 jobs in over 3,600 American companies last year.