WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate on Wednesday confirmed President Donald Trump’s choice of three new board members of the U.S. Export-Import Bank, filling vacancies that had long prevented the agency from financing large sales of exports such as commercial aircraft.
The Senate voted to confirm Kimberly Reed as the new president of EXIM and board member Judith Pryor for terms that expire Jan. 20, 2021. It also approved a board seat for Spencer Bachus, a former Alabama congressman, for a term ending in January 2023.
Each candidate won more than 70 votes, indicating bipartisan support for the 85-year-old institution.
The vote restores a quorum to the EXIM board that allows the agency to resume financing and loan guarantees for sales and projects over $10 million for the first time since July 2015, when conservative Republicans in Congress waged a battle to shut down the bank.
It was a victory for U.S. manufacturing giants including Boeing Co Caterpillar Inc and General Electric Co, who have been unable to offer overseas customers government-backed export financing for aircraft and large equipment orders.
EXIM acting president Jeffrey Gerrish said in a statement that the bank has nearly $40 billion worth of export deals in the pipeline waiting for approval that can now proceed.
“The Senate’s bipartisan votes today renew opportunities for U.S. exporters to compete on a level playing field in markets and industries where China and other nations are aggressively supporting their exporters,” said Gerrish, who also serves as deputy U.S. Trade Representative.
He said U.S. exporters would have a “fighting chance” to win export sales on quality and price rather than the availability of government-backed financing.
The 85-year-old bank had become a popular target for conservatives, who branded it as a provider of “corporate welfare” and “crony capitalism” in 2015 when they sought to block renewal of its charter.
That effort failed, but conservatives could again try to kill EXIM this year, as its charter must be renewed by Sept. 30.
But President Donald Trump and other members of his administration have voiced strong support for the bank as a tool to boost exports, grow manufacturing jobs and compete more effectively for international projects with China, whose state-backed financing dwarfs that provided by the United States.
Reporting by Richard Cowan and David Lawder, Writing by David Lawder; Editing by David Gregorio