The Export-Import Bank legislation passed with bipartisan support in May
The bank helps companies ply their products outside the United States
A GOP opponent of the bill called the measure "corporate welfare that distorts the market."
President Barack Obama broke out his pens Wednesday to sign legislation reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank, which makes it easier for U.S. companies to sell their goods overseas by providing financing for exports.
In a rare bipartisan vote, Congress passed the legislation in mid-May.
“There are a number of things that my administration can do on our own and we’re gonna keep on doing them, but it gets a whole lot easier if we get some help from Congress, and this is a great example and great model of what can happen,” said Obama at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building signing ceremony.
The Export-Import Bank, which dates back to the Roosevelt administration, is tasked with providing loans and other support for both large and small businesses to ply their products outside the U.S. borders. These loans are generally considered to be more risky due to the volatility of the overseas marketplace.
In the Senate, the reauthorization passed by a vote of 78 to 20. One of those “no” votes came from Sen. Mike Lee, a Republican from Utah.
“We need to end the corporate welfare that distorts the market and feeds corny capitalism,” Lee said on the Senate floor on May 15. “The corporations that largely benefit from the Ex-Im Bank should have no trouble marshaling their resources to compete in today’s economy.”
The legislation Obama signed allows the bank to approve new financing until September 2014. It also permits the bank to increase its lending limit to $120 billion immediately. In the longer term, that limit can be raised to $140 billion if the bank submits a business plan and continues to maintain a low default rate on its loans.
During the signing ceremony, the president listed other goals he would like Congress to work toward, including providing a $3,000 credit for Americans who refinance their homes, supporting clean energy, and working to create a better job market for veterans.
Also on his congressional “to-do” list is help for small businesses.
“Congress still has the opportunity to do more to help small-business owners, who create most of the new jobs in America so we want to give them a tax break for hiring more workers and providing those workers higher wages,” he said.
According to a White House fact sheet on the bill signed Wednesday, Export-Import Bank authorizations last year reached $32.7 billion, “supporting $40 billion in export sales and 290,000 American jobs at more than 3,600 U.S. companies.”
The president used 10 pens to sign the export-import legislation, a common White House practice that allows each of the pens to be either displayed or distributed as a souvenir.
CNN Producer Scott Spoerry contributed to this report.