(Updates with end of meeting)
By Susan Cornwell
WASHINGTON, July 15 U.S. Senate Democrats said
they were working to rescue the U.S. Export-Import Bank on
Tuesday, insisting it would save American jobs.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, scheduled
meetings with other lawmakers. The 80-year-old bank will be
forced to close unless Congress acts to renew its charter by
Ex-Im offers financing to foreign buyers of U.S. goods. Its
supporters say it also helps thousands of small U.S. businesses
with trade credit insurance or loan guarantees.
Neither the U.S. House of Representatives nor the Senate has
acted, and an August recess looms. Many Republican conservatives
in both chambers decry the bank as "corporate welfare," a
government effort to pick winners and losers in the private
sector, and want it to expire.
In 2013 the bank's loans were behind $37.4 billion of
exports and 205,000 U.S. jobs, benefiting the likes of aerospace
giant Boeing and heavy equipment manufacturers such as
General Electric and Caterpillar.
Boeing, which accounted for an estimated one-third of
Ex-Im's commitments between 2007 and 2013, could find financing
in private markets, bank critics say.
Senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat from coal-producing West
Virginia, met Reid and other Senate Democratic leaders to
discuss Manchin's proposal to reauthorize the bank for five
years while including a provision expanding the number of
countries where Ex-Im can finance coal-fired power plants.
Manchin said afterwards that no decisions were made about
when and how to proceed with legislation on the bank. "We're
still talking, trying to work something out together," he said
as he left Reid's office. "Ex-Im Bank is very important to all
of us and we're just trying to move it forward."
Manchin's provision would overturn restrictions put in place
by the Obama administration limiting the bank's financing for
coal-fired plants to buyers in only the world's poorest
Manchin has gathered several Republican co-sponsors for his
proposal, but some Democratic supporters of the bank, including
Senator Maria Cantwell, don't like the idea of including the
Aides to Democrats in Congress have said that if the Senate
doesn't take up a bill to reauthorize the bank, a fallback plan
would be attaching Ex-Im reauthorization to a must-pass piece of
legislation, such as a resolution expected to keep the
government running beyond September.
Bank supporters say it would be wrong to dismantle the
export financing agency when many other countries already do
more to support their exports than the United States does.
(Reporting by Susan Cornwell; Editing by Howard Goller)