By David Lawder
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Seven conservative Republican senators demanded on Wednesday that the U.S. Export-Import Bank disclose plans to begin liquidating its assets after the government trade lender's charter expired amid congressional inaction.
Ex-Im can no longer seek or process new applications for loans, loan guarantees and trade insurance, but it has said it will stay open to continue servicing $112 billion in existing obligations. The agency's operating budget has been approved through Sept. 30.
The suspension of Ex-Im's new business operations on Wednesday marked a partial victory for conservatives campaigning to close the bank, which they say promotes "crony capitalism" and interferes in free markets by subsidizing large, politically connected companies.
But Democrats and moderate Republicans hope to revive the trade bank later this month by attaching charter renewal legislation to a "must-pass" highway and rail transit funding bill.
The Republican senators, including presidential candidates Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, said in a letter to Ex-Im Chairman Fred Hochberg that under law, Ex-Im should only now exist to liquidate itself.
"Given the unique nature of your agency’s termination, we write to request clarity on your plan for an orderly liquidation," they wrote, requesting a timeline, details on which employees will processing the liquidation and justifications for keeping others employed.
The letter, also signed by Republican senators Pat Toomey, Mike Lee and Ben Sasse, also requested a report on the dissolution of the Ex-Im board of directors, details on the shutdown of the Ex-Im website and the return of the bank's properties to the General Services Administration, including its Washington headquarters building one block from the White House.
They also requested information on which agency would be deemed to succeed Ex-Im to assume and service its remaining loans and other obligations.
A spokesman for Ex-Im did not immediately respond to queries about the letter.
If the Senate passes legislation to put Ex-Im back in business, House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner said he would bring it to the floor for a vote. But he would give opponents in that chamber ample opportunity to attack it through amendments.
(Reporting By David Lawder; Editing by David Gregorio)