Representative Steny Hoyer, the No. 2 Democrat in the House, said negotiators “are pretty close” to an agreement on legislation to extend the U.S. Export-Import Bank’s lending authority.
Hoyer, the Democratic whip from Maryland, said he didn’t expect the legislation to be ready for a vote this week as House Majority Leader Eric Cantor seeks support within his Republican conference.
The Ex-Im bank, which provides loan guarantees, insurance and loans to purchase U.S. goods and services, is seeking to raise its lending cap from $100 billion to $140 billion by the end of the 2014 fiscal year.
“We are pretty close to agreement” on legislation, including a time frame for authorizing the bank’s continued lending activity, Hoyer told reporters.
Hoyer said Cantor, of Virginia, was still trying to shore up support among Republicans by providing assurances that “they ought to have a comfort level with the bill he has agreed to.”
Hoyer predicted that Cantor will need Democratic votes to pass the legislation, even though the majority leader is trying to marshal the needed support among Republicans.
The House is not likely to vote on the legislation this week, so the earliest it could take up the measure would be the week of May 7, following a one-week recess. Bank officials have estimated that the current lending cap may be reached by the end of May.
The bank estimates that it may need a lending cap of as much as $159 billion by the end of the 2015 fiscal year, according to an April 19 letter to congressional leaders from Robert L. Nabors II, the White House legislative affairs director.
The collapse of financial markets in 2008 and 2009 and the European debt crisis, which has tightened credit from conventional lenders, resulted in greater demand for Ex-Im bank financial services, Nabors wrote.
Critics, including some Republican lawmakers and the Club for Growth, a group that promotes smaller government, argue that the bank distorts markets. Delta Air Lines Inc. (DAL:US) of Atlanta has raised objections to Export-Import lending practices, arguing that they undercut U.S. airlines by giving subsidized loan guarantees to foreign competitors.
“Delta raises issues that are worthy of concern,” Hoyer said. Negotiators are “trying to work those out.”
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