Discharge Petition Could Be Next Step for Ex-Im Bank Reauthorization

Discharge Petition Could Be Next Step for Ex-Im Bank Reauthorization

Supporters of the Export-Import Bank may try a new tactic to put the institution back in business — National Journal is reporting that a discharge petition may be filed to get the issue out of committee and to the House floor.  Advocates have often said that a majority of House members support the bank, but the House Republican leadership is preventing them from having a chance to vote on it.

The Bank helps provide financing for U.S. exports, including communications satellites, for example.  Created in 1934, its charter must be periodically reauthorized by Congress, something done routinely over the decades.  This year, however, the reauthorization has been a matter of bitter debate. The issue splits the Republican and Democratic parties with some members
of each insisting that the bank is essential to U.S. exports and
therefore to U.S. jobs, while others assert it is corporate welfare for a
few big companies.  Boeing is often mentioned in the latter regard. 
Advocates claim that small and medium size businesses also benefit not
only because of their own projects, but because many are suppliers to
the big companies.

The Bank’s authorization expired on June 30 after an attempt to reauthorize it failed.  Another attempt in July met the same fate.   The Bank currently cannot make new loans, only administer those already in force.

Boeing chairman, W. James McNerney, Jr said in July that the whole point of the Bank is to level the playing
field with foreign competitors and If there will be no U.S.
Ex-Im Bank, “we are actively considering now moving key pieces of our
company to other countries and we never would have considered it before
this craziness on Ex-Im.” He called it “the triumph of ideology over any description of private
business.”   Boeing is the biggest beneficiary by dollars, he agreed,
but not by transactions:  “There are more deals for small and medium
size companies than big companies.  The congressional situation
is a “sign of dysfunctionality” when two-thirds of the House and of the
Senate support reauthorization, but legislation cannot pass because of
the “extremes” of the two parties.

Boeing and Orbital ATK reportedly have lost satellite business already because of the inability of the Bank to make new loans.

In the House, the challenge has been that the chairman of the Financial Services Committee, Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), supported by members of the House leadership, opposes the bank and has not moved legislation out of his committee to reauthorize it. 

National Journal reports tonight, however, that Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-TN) is planning to use a procedure called a discharge petition to move a bill out of that committee and to the floor of the House for a vote.  As explained in a Congressional Research Service report, a discharge petition requires 218 signatures.  Signing a discharge petition might be viewed as an affront to House leadership, making it a difficult decision for Republican members and at least 30 Republican signatures would be needed if all 188 Democrats signed (and there is no guarantee of that).

House rules (Rule XV, clause 2) establish time periods for when discharge petitions may be filed and when they may be considered on the floor, so it could take some time for this to play out.  It is possible that outgoing Speaker John Boehner could decide to bring a bill to the floor and avoid the need for a discharge petition that could pit Republicans against Republicans.  If not, this will be one more issue to land in the lap of his successor.

Even if the bill does pass the House, it still, of course, must pass the Senate where the issue is equally divisive.

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