Export-Import Bank Survives More House Votes – UPDATE 2

Export-Import Bank Survives More House Votes – UPDATE 2

UPDATE, November 10, 2015:  The House and Senate now have each appointed conferees on the bill; the House on November 5 and the Senate today.  The House said that it may appoint additional conferees subsequently.

UPDATE, NOVEMBER 5, 2015, 12:01 pm ET:  The House now has passed H.R. 22 (371-54), which includes the Export-Import Bank reauthorization. The Senate now must agree to the House changes to the entire bill or the two sides will set up a conference committee to negotiate a final compromise version.  Each side then would have to approve the compromise.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE, NOVEMBER 5, 2015, 7:45 am ET:  A week after the House voted to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank, the issue was back on the House floor last night as opponents tried again to restrict the Bank’s activities.  After intense debate, 10 amendments ultimately were defeated, however.

Created in 1934, the Bank needs to be periodically reauthorized, a step
taken with little notice until recently.  The Bank helps provide
financing for U.S. exports, including
communications satellites, for example.  The Aerospace Industries
Association (AIA) and the Satellite Industry Association are among its
supporters.  The Bank has not been able to issue new loans since its authorization expired on June 30, 2015.  AIA reports that U.S. companies have lost three contracts to build satellites since then.

Some very conservative Republicans and very liberal Democrats oppose the Bank because they consider it corporate welfare for a few large companies like Boeing and GE.  Supporters argue it is a critical component in the competitiveness of U.S. companies that compete against foreign companies with access to similar lending organizations in their countries.  Supporters have consistently argued that a large majority of House members support the Bank and its authorization lapsed only because a small group of powerful Republicans were preventing the full House from voting on the issue.  Last week, a group of Republicans who support the Bank, led by Rep. Steve Fincher (R-TN), used a rare parliamentary procedure to move a bill (H.R. 597) out of the Financial Services Committee against the objections of its chairman, Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX).  After fractious debate, the House voted decisively 313-118 to put the Bank back in business with support from a majority of Republicans and Democrats.

The Senate still would have to act on that bill, however, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who opposes the Bank, has said he will not move a stand-alone bill.  Instead he will allow the Senate to consider the issue only as part of a larger measure.  Indeed, in July the Senate passed a surface transportation bill that includes reauthorizing the Bank through 2019. 

The Senate action was taken by amending a House-passed Surface Transportation bill, H.R. 22.  The House refused to take up the Senate version of the bill at that time, but now is doing so. 

(The underlying bill addresses issues unrelated to the Export-Import Bank, but they are just as contentious.  Among them is reauthorizing expenditures from the Highway Trust Fund and since legislation to provide a long-term solution to that and other issues has not cleared both chambers, they have been passing short-term extensions instead.  The short-term extensions do not include the Export-Import Bank provisions.  The most recent, passed last week, extends the Highway Trust Fund authorization through November 20.   Congress presumably will try to get work on H.R. 22 completed before then to avoid the need for another short-term extension.)

Opponents of the Bank offered 10 amendments last night to restrict the Bank’s activities, reopening the debate supporters thought they had put to rest last week.  The coalition of Republicans and Democrats that supports the Bank held together and defeated those amendments by votes almost as definitive as the one last week.

The House was in session until 1:05 am this morning (Thursday) debating those and other issues.  It will reconvene at 9:00 am this morning to continue debate.  The House is scheduled to recess at the end of today and remain in recess next week.

The bill still must go back to the Senate and unless the Senate agrees with the House-passed text of the entire bill with no changes, the issue could arise again during conference negotiations.

For today, however, efforts to reopen the Bank have survived another round.

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