- Bank's future depends on Senate action to renew its charter
- Ex-Im has been unable to approve new loans since July 1
The House voted to move forward with a bill to reauthorize the U.S. Export-Import Bank in a bipartisan effort to bypass conservatives who have blocked the bank from financing companies’ overseas sales for almost four months.
The 246-177 House vote Monday, with 62 Republicans joining Democrats in the majority, allows floor action on a bill that would renew the bank through September 2019. A final vote is planned for Tuesday. The bill then would go to the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky opposes the bank. The renewal measure still could be passed there if it is attached to other legislation.
The Ex-Im Bank provides loans and other support to overseas customers of U.S. companies such as Boeing Co. and General Electric Co. The 81-year-old institution’s charter expired on June 30, and it has been unable to approve new requests for financial assistance since then.
The bank has divided Republican lawmakers, with some -- including House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling of Texas -- calling it corporate welfare for big companies that don’t need government assistance. Other Republicans say it helps U.S. businesses create jobs.
Fairfield, Connecticut-based GE has announced plans to shift hundreds of U.S. jobs to other countries, directly tying the decision to the lapse of Ex-Im.
An odd-couple pairing of Representatives Steny Hoyer, the second-ranking House Democrat, and Tennessee Republican Stephen Fincher out-maneuvered top House Republicans to bring the measure to the floor. The two used a rare procedure known as a discharge petition to bypass Hensarling’s Financial Services panel, gathering 218 lawmakers’ signatures including those of 42 Republicans.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California also opposes the bank, while outgoing Speaker John Boehner of Ohio has said he worries the demise of Ex-Im will cause job losses.
Twenty Republicans who weren’t among the members of their party signing the discharge petition voted Monday to force floor action.
They Representative Tom Cole of Oklahoma, a Rules Committee member and Boehner ally who has served as chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, as well as Peter King of New York and Blaine Luetkemeyer of Missouri, both members of the House Financial Services Committee.
Chamber of Commerce
The fight over the bank’s future has pitted many organizations that traditionally back the Republican Party against each other. While groups like the conservative Heritage Action for America oppose reopening the bank and are monitoring how lawmakers vote on the matter, the Republican-friendly U.S. Chamber of Commerce is fighting to reauthorize it, contending job losses are likely without the bank.
In July, the Senate voted 64-29 to include a provision to revive the bank as part of a long-term highway funding package. That bill failed when the House left for recess without taking up the legislation.
Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman Jim Inhofe said Monday that Republicans in his chamber are weighing a new effort that would reauthorize and overhaul the Ex-Im bank. The measure would be different from the House bill, he said, adding, "This has more teeth in it."
"It’s kind of designed for those individuals who are not supportive of Ex-Im, to be supportive by offering solutions to the objections that they have," said Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican.