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Senate panel backs Hochberg for second term at Ex-Im Bank

President of the U.S. Export-Import Bank Fred Hochberg speaks during an interview with Reuters in Nigeria's capital Abuja October 19, 2011.
President of the U.S. Export-Import Bank Fred Hochberg speaks during an interview with Reuters in Nigeria's capital Abuja October 19, 2011.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Senate Banking Committee voted 20-2 on Thursday to back Fred Hochberg for a second term as president of the U.S. Export-Import Bank, which provides financial assistance to support U.S. exports.

"Today's bipartisan vote is a testament to Fred's dedication and record of success, and I hope the Senate will move quickly to confirm him for another term," Banking Committee Chairman Tim Johnson, a South Dakota Democrat, said in a statement.

Johnson has warned the Ex-Im Bank could be forced to shut down if Hochberg is not re-confirmed before July 20. That's because the current terms of Hochberg and two other bank board members expire in July. The bank needs a quorum of at least three of its five members to approve transactions.

President Barack Obama nominated Hochberg in March for a second term.

The Depression-era government institution provides loans, loan guarantees and other types of financing to help big U.S. companies such as Boeing and GE, as well as many small and medium-sized U.S. companies, to export their goods.

The conservative free-market group Club for Growth has tried various tactics to close the bank, which it sees as "corporate welfare." It has urged like-minded senators to block action on the Hochberg nomination to shut the bank down.

Meanwhile, there were signs of progress on other pending Obama administration nominations for top government posts.

The Senate Finance Committee held a hearing on Thursday on the nomination of White House international economic affairs adviser Mike Froman to be U.S. trade representative.

The Senate Commerce Committee intends to vote on Monday on the nominations of Chicago billionaire Penny Pritzker to be Commerce secretary and Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx to be Transportation secretary, a committee aide said.

(Reporting by Doug Palmer; Editing by Sandra Maler and Philip Barbara)

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