The U.S. Export-Import Bank is back in business.
Nearly half a year after Congress allowed the trade-financing agency’s charter to run out for the first time in its 81-year history, President Barack Obama signed legislation on Friday that has revived and reformed it through 2019 in a rare instance of bipartisanship backing.
Created during the Depression, Ex-Im provides funding to foreign buyers of U.S. goods but earlier this year critics that considered it corporate welfare successfully blocked a bill to reauthorize it.
It supported $230 billion in U.S. exports across 7,230 American exporters between 2007 and 2014 but since July 1, the bank has only been able to service existing loans. Supporters have stressed that providing financial assistance to larger exporters, such as Boeing, Caterpillar and General Electric, sustains many small U.S. businesses that make up the supply chain of bigger firms and the bank’s closure could put American jobs at risk.
That prompted Stephen Fincher (R-Tennessee) to circulate a discharge petition—a rarely used legislative move that lends power to a majority of lawmakers—that would force a vote on the agency’s revival. On Oct. 27, House representatives overwhelmingly approved its reauthorization by 313 votes to 118.
In the end, lawmakers attached it to a five-year highway funding bill that passed the House and Senate on Thursday and was signed into law the following day.
“While other countries have been securing large export deals, American companies have been placed at a competitive disadvantage—forced to compete globally with one hand tied behind their back. Today’s vote puts us one step closer to ensuring our exporters have a seat at the table and are able to compete on a level playing field with other nations. This, in turn, promotes job creation here at home. I applaud my colleagues in the House for joining me in standing up for American jobs,” Fincher said.