Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell's bill to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank failed Tuesday in the Senate, despite bipartisan support and the backing of major business groups.
Boeing, which employees tens of thousands of Cantwell's constituents in Washington, is a big beneficiary of the bank, which is charged with facilitating trade for U.S. firms by assuming credit and country risks that the private sector is unable or unwilling to accept.
Fifty-five senators voted for the bill, five short of the 60 needed to end debate and proceed to consideration.
"It's disappointing that a minority in the Senate have chosen to play political football with the American economy. We need to extend the Ex-Im Bank now to support 290,000 jobs, including more than 80,000 in Washington state," Cantwell said Tuesday after the vote.
The bank's charter is currently set to expire at the end of May, and its ability to borrow will end sooner as it is expected to reach a $100 billion debt limit.
In the past, the bank has faced little opposition in Congress, but it came under attack this year from critics, including major U.S. airlines, that argued the bank makes it easier for foreign airlines to buy Boeing-manufactured planes -- aircraft that then make it possible for those carriers to out-compete American airlines on international routes.
The bank legislation also got caught up in election year politics over federal spending, with some opponents arguing that raising the bank's borrowing limit was inadvisable at a time when Congress is looking at deep spending cuts throughout the government.
The Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers supported the bill, but it was opposed by leading conservative groups like the Club for Growth and the Heritage Foundation.