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Boeing commercial jets are lined up at the company’s Seattle Delivery Center. (Boeing photo)

Nearly six months after the Export-Import Bank was shut down due to congressional wrangling, the federal agency has been revived – which is good news for the Boeing Co.

The bank plays a key role in making loans and guaranteeing loans to foreign buyers of U.S. goods. Since 2007, it’s provided support for $135 billion in exports from Washington state, according to U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., one of the backers of the bank’s reauthorization.

Many of those exports were in the form of Boeing airplane sales, to such an extent that some have called the agency “the Bank of Boeing.” Supporters say the agency plays a crucial role in keeping Boeing and other exporters competitive in global markets, while critics say it provides foreigners with market-distorting subsidies funded by American taxpayers.

This year, GOP conservatives blocked reauthorization of the bank, and its authority to make new loans lapsed on June 30. In August, Boeing Chairman Jim McNerney hinted that the company might move key parts of its operation to other countries if the bank didn’t regain its lending authority.

To revive the bank, supporters resorted to a little-used maneuver known as a discharge petition, which allowed reauthorization to be voted on by the full House even though it was against the wishes of the House Financial Services Committee’s leadership. The measure was attached to a $305 billion highway and transit construction bill that won House and Senate approval on Thursday.

President Barack Obama signed the measure into law today.

Cantwell and U.S. Rep. Denny Heck, D-Wash., joined business leaders at Boeing Commercial Airplanes’ Seattle Delivery Center today to hail the revival. In a statement, Cantwell said “common sense prevailed over extreme partisan politics in favor of American businesses and workers.”

Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg issued a statement saying “Congress did the right thing for workers at companies large and small across the nation, including the 1.5 million workers at nearly 15,000 U.S. companies that help Boeing design, make and support America’s aerospace exports.”

But congressional conservatives – including a couple of GOP presidential candidates – criticized the move. U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said the revival was “especially offensive to taxpayers who want to end corporate welfare handouts and let the free market finance overseas investments by American companies.” And U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, complained that “the Washington Cartel reversed one of the few fiscal conservative victories achieved with this Republican Congress.”

The newly passed legislation authorizes Export-Import Bank operations through the 2019 fiscal year, but the bank’s critics made clear that they’ll keep fighting. Rubio vowed to continue “our work to end the Export-Import Bank … and we will succeed.”

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