Senate could approve U.S. Ex-Im Bank nominee just in time

WASHINGTON, July 9 Tue Jul 9, 2013 12:58pm EDT

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WASHINGTON, July 9 (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate could vote next week to approve the nomination of Fred Hochberg to a second term as president of the U.S. Export-Import Bank, a last-minute action that would allow the government-run bank to keep making loans to support exports.

Hochberg has been president and chairman of the bank's board of directors since 2009. His term and those of two other board members expired in January but they have been serving on six-month extensions that end July 20.

A vote on Hochberg's nomination "could come as early as next week," a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said.

Unless Hochberg is approved soon, the bank's five-member board will no longer have a quorum to approve transactions.

That would be a blow for Boeing and other U.S. companies that rely on bank financing to help make export sales.

But it would please the conservative free market group Club for Growth, which calls the bank a form of corporate welfare and wants it permanently shut down. The bank provides direct loans, loan guarantees and other types of financing to help U.S. exporters make sales in markets where commercial lending is scarce.

The Club for Growth has urged Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Republicans who voted against renewing bank's charter last year to block Hochberg's nomination.

President Barack Obama has not yet nominated anyone to fill the other soon-to-be vacant board spots occupied by Vice Chair Wanda Felton and Director Larry Walther.

The Senate Banking Committee voted 20-2 in favor of Hochberg's nomination on June 6 in a sign of broad bipartisan support despite Club for Growth's lobbying effort.

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