WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House and an influential pair of business organizations called for renewal of the Export-Import Bank on Monday, one day after newly elected House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California said the agency should be phased out.
The bank's existence is fast emerging as a flashpoint in the internal Republican struggle between the business-backed establishment and tea party groups.
Asked about McCarthy's comments, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the bank "helps American companies create and support jobs here at home at no cost to taxpayers" and traditionally has enjoyed bipartisan support as a result.
The bank also returned $1 billion to the Treasury in the last budget year.
The government agency provides direct loans, loan guarantees and credit insurance to help foreign buyers purchase American-made products. In its 2013 annual report, it said it had approved an all-time high of 3,842 authorizations for the 12-month period, with an estimated export value of $37.4 billion. "This support is estimated to have sustained an estimated 205,000 export-related U.S. jobs," it said.
Its charter expires in September, and without legislation, it would not be able to back new loans.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and National Association of Manufacturers sent an appeal to lawmakers calling for the bank's renewal, signed by 865 organizations from around the country.
Tom Donohue, who heads the Chamber, said nearly half of the Republicans currently in the House voted to reauthorize the back two years ago, 122 out of 233. He and Jay Timmons, the top official at the NAM, both expressed confidence their side could prevail in a vote.
Additionally, about 40 House Republicans called for its continued existence during the day in a letter to Speaker John Boehner and McCarthy. Failure to pass legislation would "amount to unilateral disarmament in the face of other nations' aggressive efforts to help their exporters," they wrote.
McCarthy's comments on Sunday marked a turnabout for him and the first indication of a change in direction of the House majority since the rank-and-file reshuffled its leadership last week.