WASHINGTON — Urging Republicans to reauthorize funding of the Export-Import Bank, Commerce Secretary John Bryson said that losing the institution and its vital role in the economy would be "unacceptable."
Many in the GOP have been blocking the Obama administration's proposed reauthorization, under which the bank's total lending authority would increase to $140 billion by 2015 from the current $100-billion cap.
"Reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank should be a straightforward, sound and simple decision," Bryson said Friday. "Or put another way, losing Ex-Im at a time when America's businesses and workers are just getting back on their feet would be unacceptable."
Bryson made the comments in prepared remarks before a receptive audience — the bank's annual conference in Washington.
His push for reauthorization, part of an overall Obama administration effort, came a day after former President Clinton made the same pitch in his keynote address at the conference.
The bank helps finance U.S. exports with loan guarantees that ultimately are backed by the government. Its authorization expires at the end of next month.
Some leading business groups have joined the administration in asking Congress to reauthorize the bank and gradually increase its lending capacity.
But some Republicans call the bank an example of crony capitalism that leads the government to pick winners and losers in the marketplace. Opponents have been urged on by conservative groups such as the Club for Growth, which last month hammered the bank for past loan guarantees for Hollywood films.
Bryson said the bank's financing led to about $41 billion in U.S. exports last year, and the loan guarantees did not cost taxpayers any money.
"In fact, Ex-Im has actually generated revenues for the U.S. Treasury since the 1990s," he said. "Now that's smart government."
The bank has been working closely with the Commerce Department to try to meet President Obama's goal of doubling U.S. exports from 2010 to 2015.