WASHINGTON, Nov 3 (Reuters) - Backers of the U.S. Export-Import Bank said on Tuesday they can defeat a barrage of proposed amendments aimed at gutting the trade lender's ability to aid large companies like Boeing Co and General Electric Co.
A hard-fought renewal of EXIM's charter, which has been expired since June 30, is part of a Senate-passed transportation funding bill that is currently before the House Rules Committee. The bank's opponents are now piling on proposals to sharply curtail its activities.
Critics of the bank, including new House Speaker Paul Ryan, argue that it should be closed for good to eliminate "corporate welfare" that puts U.S. taxpayers at risk. Ryan on Tuesday promised an "open process" for amendments to the six-year transportation bill.
Representative Stephen Fincher, a Tennessee Republican who led an effort to revive EXIM by breaking down procedural roadblocks that culminated in a 313-118 renewal vote last week, said he hoped that many of the amendments would be ruled inappropriate.
But he added that a majority of Republicans support EXIM's ability to aid both large and small firms.
"This is an attempt to derail our efforts to save jobs, plain and simple," Fincher told reporters. "As long as the majority of our members get our chance to beat back these amendments, we can win."
One such amendment, from conservative Republican Representative Curt Clawson, would require 100 percent of EXIM's support go to small businesses, compared to at least 20 percent currently.
This would effectively shut out the trade bank's biggest users, including Boeing, GE and Caterpillar Inc and thousands of mid-size firms. Boeing received more than $8 billion in financing and loan guarantees in fiscal 2014, about 40 percent of EXIM's total support that year.
Among the 11 EXIM-focused amendments offered by Republican Representative Mick Mulvaney are proposals to prohibit EXIM assistance to entities doing business with Iran or involving countries with over $100 billion in sovereign wealth fund assets - cutting off the United Arab Emirates, China, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Singapore.
The second-ranking House Democrat, Steny Hoyer, said he was urging his party's members to oppose "any and all amendments" related to EXIM.
He said House Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling could have allowed amendments to an EXIM renewal bill but chose instead not to move any legislation.
"There was a time for amendments. That's gone. It's gone because Mr. Hensarling kept the bill bottled up," Hoyer said. (Reporting by David Lawder, additional reporting by Richard Cowan and Susan Cornwell; Editing by Andrew Hay)