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US Export-Import Bank Expires as Political Fight Continues

FILE - Fred Hochberg, Chairman and President of the Export-Import Bank of the United States, holds up a copy of the bank's Default Rate Report as he testifies before a congressional committee June 4, 2015 on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.

A controversial government agency that helps U.S. companies export goods will officially go out of business at 0400 UTC Wednesday (midnight Tuesday EDT), but supporters think they can rescue the U.S. Export-Import Bank in a week or so.

Without a charter from Congress, the Ex-Im Bank cannot make new loans or sell the insurance that protects American companies if a foreign customer does not pay for an order. The bank will continue to service existing contracts.

Lawmakers left Washington for a July 4 Independence Day holiday break without voting on continuing Ex-Im, something Representative Maxine Waters called “unconscionable.”

Waters, Representative Steny Hoyer and other Democrats say they are confident they can win approval of the bank if they can get both houses of Congress to bring the issue to a vote.

In a conference call with journalists, Democratic supporters of the bank said they plan to use parliamentary maneuvers to attach the bank’s reauthorization to a piece of unrelated legislation that most members view as vital to their districts.

Ex-Im supporters say the bank supports thousands of exporters, including some of the largest U.S. companies and many small businesses. They argue that the agency helps support thousands of U.S. jobs, and note that rival nations like China, Germany and many others do even more to support exports.

Ex-Im has been targeted by some of the most conservative Republicans in Congress, who say the agency is “corporate welfare” that allows bureaucrats to choose economic “winners and losers” in a process that would be better left to market forces.

Representative Jeb Hensarling says most of the bank’s help goes to a few huge corporations that don’t need and should not get government aid.