U.S. senators introduced a measure Wednesday that would extend authorization of the Export-Import Bank for another four years and boost its lending cap from $100 billion to $140 billion.
While the charter of the Ex-Im Bank is set to expire at the end of May, it is predicted to hit its lending ceiling in just two weeks.
Senate Democrats have accused conservative Republicans in the House of Representatives of seeking to delay or block reauthorization of the bank, which provides favorable financing to overseas buyers of U.S. goods, in turn helping U.S. companies compete globally.
Renewing the charter would provide the bank with $140 billion in new lending capacity through 2015.
Democratic Senator Maria Cantwell said this would be "a huge boost to businesses," particularly in her northwestern state of Washington, where she said one in four jobs is trade-related.
"Allowing the Ex-Im Bank to expire would be a crippling blow to our export economy," Cantwell told reporters.
Reauthorization "will provide certainty for American businesses and help support more private sector job growth."
Cantwell and fellow Democrat Charles Schumer attached the amendment to a jobs bill that eases regulations on small companies.
The so-called IPO bill, which would allow small firms to more easily raise capital and launch initial public offerings, sailed through the House with overwhelming bipartisan support last week, and Senate leaders have agreed to vote on the House version.
Should the Senate approve the amended version it would need to return to the House for final approval.
Schumer noted that President Barack Obama has made a priority of doubling U.S. exports within five years.
"This measure is an absolute necessity if we're ever going to meet that goal," he said.
Ex-Im Bank helped generate over $40 billion in U.S. exports in 2011 alone, and helped create or sustain 290,000 U.S. jobs at a time of persistently high unemployment, Schumer said.
The bank's chairman, Fred Hochberg, said lifting the lending cap would help level the playing field for American firms that "face unprecedented competition" from abroad, and failure to reauthorize would only cripple U.S. companies.
"While we're wringing our hands over what to do, our competition is licking their chops at a weakened Ex-Im Bank that will not be as supportive to U.S. exporters as they are," Hochberg said.
Established in 1945, Ex-Im Bank finances and insures foreign purchases of U.S. goods, particularly when private loans are unavailable or unaffordable due to commercial or political risk.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2012