WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democratic lawmakers will unveil a plan on Wednesday to keep the U.S. Export-Import Bank open for another seven years and expand its lending as a clash over the bank's future intensifies.
Legislation backed by Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer and colleagues Maxine Waters, Gwen Moore and Denny Heck would reauthorize Ex-Im, which provides support for U.S. exporters and the buyers of U.S. goods, until 2022 and increase its lending cap by $20 billion.
Prominent Ex-Im opponent Jen Hensarling, a Republican, urged lawmakers to consider closing the bank down in a plea timed to coincide with a major push by the business community to ensure the bank's survival.
More than 600 small to mid-sized exporters, manufacturers and business representatives from 41 states will descend on Capitol Hill on Wednesday to ask for Ex-Im's mandate to be extended past the current June 30 expiry date.
"Bipartisan majorities in both the House of Representatives and the Senate support renewing the Export-Import Bank’s charter, and I am confident that Democrats and Republicans will reach consensus to keep the Bank alive," said Waters, the top Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee.
Hensarling, who chairs the committee with jurisdiction over the bank, said Ex-Im used taxpayer funds to help finance select U.S. exports at the expense of others.
"The best way to level the playing field for American exporters and manufacturers is not with taxpayer subsidies, guarantees and politically-driven lending, but instead with more opportunity," he wrote in a letter he will send to fellow lawmakers that was seen by Reuters.
If Congress does not vote to extend the bank's charter, it will close at the end of June. Hensarling and other critics charge that Ex-Im's support for overseas buyers of U.S. goods, such as Boeing Co planes, gives those foreign firms an edge over U.S. competitors.
Republican Stephen Fincher unveiled a bill in January, backed by 57 fellow Republicans, which would give the bank five more years but also cut its lending cap to $130 billion from $140 billion.
(Reporting by Krista Hughes; editing by Andrew Hay)