A group of U.S. Republican lawmakers introduced a bill on Wednesday to extend the term of the U.S. export credit agency for five years past its current June deadline.
The Export-Import Bank, which provides support to U.S. exporters and the buyers of U.S. goods, has been targeted for closure by some conservative Republicans who say it usurps the role of the private sector and provides "welfare" for big business.
The legislation kicks off what is likely to be a battle this year between the Chairman of the House Committee on Financial Services, Jeb Hensarling, one of the bank's strongest critics, and moderate Republicans, Democrats and business groups determined to keep Ex-Im open.
A bill introduced by Tennessee lawmaker Stephen Fincher and 57 fellow Republicans would give the bank five more years, but also cut its lending cap to $130 billion from $140 billion.
Other changes would increase Ex-Im's risk-sharing with the private sector, strengthen anti-corruption practices and increase capital buffers.
"The U.S. Ex-Im Bank has been a job-creator since its inception, yet it is in dire need of major reforms to ensure its ability to continue creating jobs at no expense to the taxpayer," Fincher said in a statement.
"In reforming the Ex-Im Bank, we'll make its practices more accountable and transparent than ever before."
The Ex-Im Bank has been criticized for aiding big companies such as Boeing Co and Caterpillar Inc., but its supporters argue it also helps many small businesses that are unable to get export insurance from private banks.
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