Ex-Im Renewal May Have Enough Support to Force U.S. House Vote

  • Fincher of Tennesseee is counting on backing from Republicans
  • Majority leader urges party members not to agree to a vote

A Republican House member pushing to renew the U.S. Export-Import bank may have enough support to force a vote later this month over a party leader’s opposition.

Representative Stephen Fincher of Tennessee is counting on the support of most, if not all, of the more than 40 Republicans who signed on as co-sponsors of the legislation he introduced last week, his spokeswoman, Logan Ramsey, said on Thursday. Fincher needs at least 30 Republicans to back his effort if all 188 Democrats support the push to bring a reauthorization bill to the House floor.

Fincher began the push Wednesday to reauthorize the bank, whose charter expired June 30, saying in an interview he was “very confident” he would get enough backing. Supporters of Ex-Im say that letting the bank’s authorization lapse puts U.S. companies at a competitive disadvantage in the global market, a trend some firms have already started to flag.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, the leading candidate for speaker, is “strongly” discouraging lawmakers from signing on to a fellow Republican’s effort to force a vote to revive the U.S. Export-Import Bank, his spokesman said.

“Because this petition would circumvent the committee process, McCarthy strongly discourages the participation of any such effort and remains firmly opposed to the Ex-Im bank,” said Matt Sparks, a spokesman for McCarthy, in an e-mail Thursday.

Fincher’s procedural maneuver is an attempt to bypass the usual process of moving legislation through a committee to the House floor. Other attempts to pass legislation to reauthorize the bank have been stymied by House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling of Texas, who opposes the bank.

Intraparty Dispute

Fincher’s effort sets up an intraparty dispute on the future of the 81-year-old bank, which provides loans, insurance and other support to help U.S. companies such as Boeing Co. and General Electric Co. make sales to overseas customers. Hensarling and other Republicans who oppose the bank say it mostly helps big corporations that don’t need government assistance.

Because it’s too early to collect signatures to force a House vote on the bank’s revival, Ramsey said Fincher’s office doesn’t have an official tally of Republicans who back the effort. The earliest a House reauthorization vote could occur is Oct. 21, she said.

The Republican-controlled Senate voted in July to extend the Ex-Im bank through September 2019 in an amendment added to a highway-funding bill that hasn’t been taken up in the House.

Republican leadership is divided on the bank. Outgoing Speaker John Boehner has said he worries the demise of Ex-Im will cause job losses -- as some companies have already signaled -- while McCarthy has called for an end to the institution.

Boehner spokeswoman Emily Schillinger said in an e-mail Thursday, “The speaker has long believed that this issue should be worked out through regular order at the Financial Services Committee.” She didn’t say whether Boehner would discourage Republicans from participating in Fincher’s effort to force vote on reauthorizing Ex-Im.

Speaker Election

The push to revive the bank comes amid the jostling to replace Boehner of Ohio, who announced on Sept. 25 that he would leave Congress at the end of October. McCarthy is the leading candidate to replace him. Republicans plan a leadership vote for Oct. 8.

Fincher would need support from 218 lawmakers to force a vote on reauthorizing the bank, which has been unable to approve new applications for assistance since its charter expired. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, said she supported the effort. “If Republicans have enough people on a discharge petition, then we might join in and go from there,” she told reporters at a news conference Thursday. “I’m optimistic from what I hear on their side.”

Two Republican supporters of Ex-Im, Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, where Boeing has its headquarters, and Dave Reichert of Washington state, where the aircraft manufacturer employs over 80,000, or almost half its workforce, will support Fincher’s effort, aides said in e-mails. Kinzinger “has been speaking with his colleagues about the importance of reauthorizing Ex-Im for jobs in his district,” said spokeswoman Catherine Easley.

Reichert spokeswoman Breanna Deutsch said, “This is really the only way members can guarantee consideration of a bill without cooperation from the committee of referral, the majority-party leadership, or the Committee on Rules.”

Shifting Jobs

Fairfield, Connecticut-based GE has announced plans to shift hundreds of U.S. jobs to other countries, and directly tied the decision to the lapse of Ex-Im. The company said on Sept. 28 it would transfer 350 U.S. jobs to Canada and build a gas engine manufacturing plant there. That move would support GE’s efforts to access Canada’s export credit agency, the company said.

GE also said Sept. 15 it would move as many as 500 U.S. positions in its power generation business to Europe and China, and said 2,000 spots may be added overseas as a result of a U.K. financing deal and expansion in its aircraft-engine unit.

Boeing, Ex-Im’s biggest beneficiary, may also lose business due to the lapse in the bank’s charter. South Africa’s Comair Ltd. said in a Sept. 28 letter to Chicago-based Boeing that it may have to drop $1.1 billion in jet deliveries due to begin in October after struggling to line up financing without U.S. government assistance.

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