Republican Pushes Ex-Im Bank Revival as Party Remains Divided

  • Tennessee's Fincher seeks to reauthorize bank for five years
  • Some Republicans say big companies don't need bank's help

A Tennessee Republican began a push Wednesday to force a U.S. House vote on legislation that would reauthorize the U.S. Export-Import Bank for five years, a priority of business advocates that has divided the party.

Representative Stephen Fincher said the effort to revive the 81-year-old bank, whose charter expired June 30, is “a last resort” after other attempts to get his chamber to vote on its future failed. He would need support from 218 lawmakers to succeed, and second-ranking House Democrat Representative Steny Hoyer of Maryland said his party, which has 188 House members, would likely back the move if enough Republicans go along.

“We are very confident,” Fincher said of his efforts to get Republican colleagues to support the bid to revive the bank, which provides loans, insurance and other aid to help U.S. companies such as General Electric Co. and Boeing Co. make sales to overseas customers. Some Republicans have opposed extending the bank’s charter because they say it helps big corporations that don’t need government assistance.

Boeing, Ex-Im’s biggest beneficiary, may also lose sales 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.

While House Democrats have previously tried procedural maneuvers to force votes to reauthorize the bank, House Republicans haven’t joined them, as party leaders have been split on the bank’s future. House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio has said he worries the bank’s absence would lead to job losses, while Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California says he wants to keep the bank expired.

Representative Paul Gosar, an Arizona Republican opposed to reauthorizing the bank, said he didn’t know if the effort would succeed or whether he would fight it.

“I’ve got my hands in a lot of different things,” Gosar said. “It’s a little bit tough to add one more stick on the wood-burning stove so we’ll have to see.”

Fincher’s move comes after GE announced plans to relocate hundreds of U.S. jobs to other countries. The company said this week it would move 350 U.S. jobs to Canada and build a manufacturing plant there. That move would allow it to access Canada’s export credit agency after Congress halted the Ex-Im Bank’s ability to offer new financing, the company said.

GE, based in Fairfield, Connecticut-based, 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.

Fincher introduced legislation to reauthorize the bank earlier this year that never made it through the House Financial Services Committee. That panel’s Republican chairman, Jeb Hensarling of Texas, is among those who oppose Ex-Im.

John Mica, a Florida Republican, said he’s prepared to join any Republican-led effort to renew the bank.

“We’ve got to do something,” Mica said in an interview. Losing the bank “has the potential of costing me 500 jobs in my district and putting us even further behind in terms of sales of American equipment overseas.”

Hoyer, the second-ranking Democrat in the chamber, said Democrats support Fincher’s move.

“It is certainly an effort that we would support if it gets sufficient Republican support,” Hoyer said in an interview.

The push to revive the bank comes amid a scramble to replace Boehner, the House Speaker, who announced last week that he would leave Congress at the end of October. It is unclear how McCarthy, viewed as the favorite to become the next speaker, will react to efforts to push a vote on reauthorizing the bank before Boehner leaves offices.

McCarthy has said he opposes rechartering the bank, which is a top goal of business groups across the country. Spokesmen for Boehner and McCarthy didn’t respond to requests for comment on whether they were aware of Fincher’s effort and whether they would try to block it.