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Wednesday March 21, 2012 | 05:24 PM

Sens. Susan Collins of Maine was one of just three Republicans to vote this week to extend the life of the Export-Import Bank of the United States, and expand the amount of money it can use to finance the export of U.S. goods and services to overseas markets.

Collins and Sens. Scott Brown of Massachusetts and Dean Heller of Nevada voted Tuesday with Democrats to extend the bank’s authority past May 31, for additional years, and increase its lending limit to $140 billion from $100 billion.

The vote came as a failed amendment to a bill that aims to ease small businesses’ access to capital. That bill passed a procedural test 76-22 today, and appears headed for final approval Thursday.

Collins and GOP Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine both voted for the overall bill. It was 22 Democrats who voted against the overall bill, angered that most Republicans voted against the Ex-Im Bank amendment and another amendment that Democrats said would have increased investor safeguards. Those two amendments were both voted on Tuesday, and failed to gain the required 60 votes needed for passage.

The bill authored by House Republicans passed the House by a wide margin, and has been endorsed by President Obama. However, the head of the Securities and Exchange Commission has warned that more investor protections are needed.

Collins said in an interview Tuesday that she favored the Ex-Im Bank amendment because the bank has helped finance purchases made by Maine-based manufacturers, including General Electric.

Collins joined Snowe and all other Republicans except Brown in voting against the Democrats’ amendment attempting to put more investor safeguards in place.

Collins said she wanted to “try to keep as close to the House bill as possible” to avoid slowing down the bill and “actually get something done.”

Senate GOP leaders have said they might deal with the Ex-Im Bank reauthorization separately.

Snowe said via email that she favors the overall bill because, “At a time when it’s imperative that we encourage job creation – and when millions of Americans have been unemployed for the longest period of time since World War II – this legislation aims to allow small businesses to grow and expand their operations without unnecessarily burdensome regulations, so they can create jobs at a time when they are desperately required.”



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Kevin Miller is Washington bureau chief for the Portland Press Herald and MaineToday Media. He has worked as a journalist in Maine for 6 ½ years, covering the environment, politics and the State House. Before arriving in Maine, he wrote about politics, government and education for newspapers in Virginia and Maryland.
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