WASHINGTON - The U.S. Senate voted Sunday to advance legislation that would revive the federal Export-Import Bank, whose charter expired June 30 and was not renewed by Congress, with conservative Republicans pushing to shut down the bank for good.
By a vote of 67-26, the Senate, in a rare Sunday session, limited debate on a measure that would add the reauthorization of the bank's charter to legislation dealing with federal highway spending. A vote to actually add the Ex-Im Bank wording to the roads bill will come later.
The Ex-Im wording would reauthorize the federal credit agency through Sept. 30, 2019.
The vote demonstrated the Senate's strong backing for reviving the Ex-Im Bank, which helps U.S. exporters, but its future remains in doubt. Even if the Republican-controlled Senate approves the bank measure and transportation legislation, it is not clear whether the House of Representatives will embrace the bill with the Ex-Im provision.
Conservative Republicans, many of them in the House, have targeted Ex-Im for extinction, claiming it provides welfare to U.S. companies such as Boeing Co. and General Electric Co.
The Obama administration and many Democrats and Republicans in Congress support the bank, saying it helps American companies, large and small, compete against foreign firms whose governments provide loan guarantees or other supports.
The White House has argued that U.S. companies and workers would be disadvantaged without the Ex-Im Bank, and that firms in countries like China would step in and win new business.
Congress' refusal to renew Ex-Im's charter by the end of last month meant it no longer could make new loans. Unless Congress acts, the bank will have to shut its doors Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year, when its administrative budget expires.