Republican backer of U.S. Export-Import bank: renewal to beat deadline

Reuters News
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Posted: Apr 15, 2015 6:39 PM

By Elvina Nawaguna

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A Republican lawmaker pushing to reauthorize the U.S. Export-Import Bank said on Wednesday he was confident the export credit agency would get a lifeline before a June 30 deadline, based on "positive interactions" he has had with Ex-Im critic Jeb Hensarling.

Hensarling, chairman of the House of Representatives committee with jurisdiction over the bank, has said he wants the bank’s mandate to expire in June and he plays a key role in deciding whether legislation to renew it can progress to a vote.

"I feel really, really good about reauthorization at this point," Tennessee Republican Stephen Fincher said during a call organized by Exporters for Ex-Im Coalition ahead of a congressional hearing on the bank, which provides support to U.S. exporters and foreign buyers of U.S. goods.

"He (Hensarling) continues to have some reservations about reauthorization, but I've had some positive interactions with him here of late," Fincher said.

At the hearing on Wednesday to examine Ex-Im reforms, lawmakers pressed Ex-Im officials over corruption issues after the U.S. Department of Justice charged a former loan officer with bribery.

A section of Republicans fiercely opposed to the bank say it mostly helps large companies like Boeing and critics say the bank is corrupt and lacks accountability.

The bank's acting inspector general, Michael McCarthy, said 31 corruption and fraud investigations remain open and told lawmakers that more indictments could come.

U.S. Treasury Under Secretary for International Affairs Nathan Sheets said Ex-Im creates a level playing field with China and European countries, which also provide export support for their companies, especially in the aircraft sector.

"Curtailing U.S. export financing unilaterally could undermine our exporters’ ability to compete, potentially causing them to lose business to foreign competitors whose governments continue to provide that support," Sheets said.

Fincher's bill, introduced in January, would renew Ex-Im for five more years and make reforms, including independent audits of Ex-Im's portfolio and raised capital requirements for loans.

Hensarling in February wrote to fellow lawmakers saying he opposed Ex-Im's reauthorization, calling it "politically-driven lending." 

A spokesman for Hensarling said he would not comment on conversations between the chairman and other lawmakers.

Lawmakers last fall extended the bank's charter for nine months, temporarily averting a shutdown while they sought a long-term solution.

(Reporting by Elvina Nawaguna; Editing by Bernard Orr)