March 21, 2015 / 5:01 PM / 4 years ago

Ex-Im Bank bill backing coal plants has strong chance of passing: U.S. senator

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A Democratic supporter of a Senate bill to save the U.S. Export-Import Bank and overturn limits on bank financing of coal-fired power plants overseas defended the legislation on Saturday after the White House said it wanted to keep coal plant restrictions.

Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp said the bill she has co-sponsored had a strong chance of passing the Senate before the mandate for the Ex-Im Bank, which provides support for U.S. exporters and the buyers of U.S. goods, expires on June 30.

“Our goal was to offer a realistic compromise bill that can garner bipartisan support to pass through the Senate and make sure the Export-Import Bank continues to support small businesses around the country. That’s what this bill accomplishes,” she said in a statement.

On Friday, the White House said it was strongly committed to reauthorizing the Ex-Im Bank but wanted to keep restrictions adopted in 2013 on public financing for coal-fired power plant projects, part of its effort to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Lawmakers from coal-producing states like Heitkamp of North Dakota have fought the move.

The White House declined to comment specifically on the energy provision included in the Ex-Im bill, which was introduced on Thursday and co-sponsored by four Republicans and four Democrats, including Heitkamp.

The Senate bill is a blueprint for balance between conservatives who want to close the Ex-Im Bank, other Republicans who want reforms, and many Democrats who prefer a longer-term mandate and an expansion of the bank’s activities.

Conservative Republicans say the bank usurps the role of the private sector and provides “welfare” for big business.

Ex-Im bills introduced in the House of Representatives have support from more than half that chamber’s lawmakers, but face opposition from Jeb Hensarling, a Republican who chairs the House committee responsible for the bank and is influential in determining which bills come up for a vote.

Reporting by Eric Beech; editing by Clelia Oziel

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