Restoring Ex-Im Bank Effort Gets a Boost As Discharge Petition Succeeds

Restoring Ex-Im Bank Effort Gets a Boost As Discharge Petition Succeeds

Congressional efforts to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank took a step forward today when a sufficient number of House members signed a discharge position to move legislation, H.R. 597, out of the Financial Services Committee and onto the House floor for a vote.  The vote could take place as early as October 26, the day the House returns from a week-long recess.

Three Republican Congressmen, Steve Fincher (Tennessee), Adam Kinzinger (Illinois) and Chris Collins (New York) filed the discharge petition today, a procedural step to discharge a bill from the committee of jurisdiction so it can be voted on by the House when the committee itself will not do so.  Fincher is the sponsor of H.R. 597. 

House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) opposes the Bank and has been using his position as chairman of the Bank’s oversight committee to prevent Fincher’s bill, the Reform Exports and Expand the American Economy Act, from moving to the House floor for a vote.  The issue also is divisive in the Senate, but that chamber has managed to pass legislation reauthorizing the bank.  The Senate-passed legislation has been blocked in the House, however, where House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-California) also opposes the Bank.

It is highly unusual for the members of a political party to challenge their own leaders so publicly, but they believe that a majority of the House supports the Bank and the obstacle to its reauthorization is only a small, but powerful group of their own members.

Fincher revealed his strategy to circumvent Hensarling and other Republican leaders last week and today followed through.  In a joint statement, Fincher, Kinzinger and Collins said the discharge petition is intended “to stand up to Washington’s broken system that is killing thousands of American jobs and jeopardizing thousands more. … If we do not get this done for the American people, the only thing our country will be exporting is jobs.”

Hensarling issued his own statement asserting that a majority of Republicans on his committee did not want a House floor vote on the issue.  “I respect my colleagues who believe Ex-Im is essential economic development, just as I respect those who believe Ex-Im is unfair and harmful corporate welfare.”  He warned his Republican colleagues that signing the discharge position contradicts regular order and puts Democrats in charge (because a large number of Democratic signatures are needed).  “Let Democrats own corporate welfare all by themselves.  Republicans should instead focus on reforms that will give every American opportunities to succeed” such as “fundamental tax reform, tort reform and regulatory reform.”

A discharge petition requires a majority of House members — 218 — to sign and exactly that number did so today.  According to the tally from the House Clerk’s office, 42 Republicans and 176 Democrats signed the petition.  The bill should now move to the floor for a vote.  The House is in recess next week, but a vote could come on October 26 when it returns.

The Bank has been unable to issue new loans since its authorization expired on June 30.   It finances U.S. exports abroad, including aerospace products such as communications satellites.  The Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) and Satellite Industry Association (SIA) both advocate for the Bank.  SIA issued a statement earlier this week calling for its reauthorization.

The Bank was created in 1934, but its charter
must be periodically reauthorized by Congress, something done routinely
over the decades.  Since last fall, however, the reauthorization has become 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.

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