Congress has approved a three-year reauthorization for the U.S. Export-Import Bank, boosting the total financial assistance the bank can provide to U.S. companies, including construction contractors and equipment makers.

Final congressional action came on May 15, when the Senate passed the measure by a strong 78-20 vote after turning back five Republican-sponsored amendments that would have put restrictions on Ex-Im's assistance. The measure had cleared the House on May 9.

After the Senate vote, President Obama said in a statement that he looked forward to signing the bill into law. He also said that the legislation "will help American businesses create jobs here at home and sell their products around the world—all at no cost to taxpayers."

The bill signing is expected to take place soon because Ex-Im's current authorization expires on May 31.

The Ex-Im Bank provides loans, loan guarantees and other financial assistance to help U.S. companies sell their products and services overseas.

Heavy-equipment companies such as Caterpillar Inc. and design and construction firms, including Bechtel Corp., Black & Veatch and J. Ray McDermott, have received assistance from the bank over the past decade.

Bill Lane, Caterpillar’s Washington director, says that Ex-Im aid is "an important tool to increase exports. We tend to use it in the high-risk markets, ranging from Papua New Guinea to Sierra Leone."

Lane adds, "Last year, it supported less than 1% of our overall exports. But had we not had the bank, those exports wouldn’t have occurred. So it truly is the bank of last resort."