WASHINGTON (Dec. 16)
The Senate, after having twice refused to shut off debate, moved today towards recommitting the Export-Import Bank funding legislation to the Senate-House Conference Committee. The legislation carries a ceiling of $300 million in loans to the Soviet government over the next four years as a monitor of its emigration practices which are contained in the Trade Reform Bill.
Proponents of the Ex-Im Bank measure failed to achieve a two-thirds majority of Senators present on Saturday by a 49-35 margin, and today threatened to stop debate but lost again by a 54-34 vote. Liberals and conservatives were on both sides of the cloture motions. Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger had asked for a free hand in dealing with loans to the Soviet Union to improve his diplomatic position, but a majority in the Senate insists on a ceiling. This majority forced the Senate-House Conference Committee to adopt the ceiling although the House conferees had objected.
The bill, which calls for increasing the Ex-Im Bank’s lending authority from $20 billion to $25 billion over the next four years, faces a double hurdle of tough floor fights when it comes out of committee and time for enactment before the current Congress adjourns.
After the second cloture move lost, Sen. Frank Church (D. Idaho) offered a measure that could give Congress authority to approve government loans of more than $25 million to the Soviet Union With barely a week left before the expected adjournment of Congress, a frenzied drive to get the bank, trade, and foreign aid legislation completed will be underway in both Houses in the next three days.
The trade bill with the Jackson Mills-Vanik Amendment on Soviet trade and emigration is in conference and may emerge for a vote in the next day or two. The foreign aid authorization measure also is expected to emerge for a vote soon, and then both Houses will move toward an appropriation measure to provide the funding for the authorizations.