- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The House voted Tuesday to revive the federal Export-Import Bank, capping an unusual end-run around GOP leaders and vexing conservatives who say the lapsed credit agency corrupted the free market and should fade away.

A majority of Republicans teamed with all but one Democrat to reauthorize the bank known as “Ex-Im,” 313 votes to 118, after centrists in the House GOP conference circulated a discharge petition this month to force the issue onto the floor.

The maneuver is extremely rare, as it skirts the committee process and lends power to the minority party. But its Republican backers said they had no choice but to team with Democrats, after GOP leaders let the Ex-Im expire June 30 and then refused to throw it a lifeline when companies reported layoffs and other damage.

“The passage of this bill marks a historic day in the House,” said Rep. Stephen Fincher, Tennessee Republican who sponsored the effort. “This is a win for small businesses, hardworking Americans and for rank-and-file members who want to get things done for their constituents.”

The White House says President Obama is eager to revive the bank, a product of the New Deal that finances the sale of U.S. goods overseas, although it is unclear if the Senate will follow the House’s lead.

The bank hasn’t been able to extend any new credit since July 1, enthusing the conservative movement and alarming business groups who say the bank bolstered jobs and helped American firms compete in global markets. Unless Congress acts, the Ex-Im will to continue to unwind its business and then disappear.

Vocal Republicans such as Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin say the bank tilted the scales in favor of specific companies, and conservatives shouldn’t forfeit a key win by reauthorizing the bank.

“Are we going to reward good work or good connections?” said Mr. Ryan, who is set to be elected speaker later this week. “I think there are plenty other ways to expand opportunity in this country, and corporate welfare is not one of them.”

Sen. Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, opposes the bank and says he doesn’t want to devote floor time to it, so Ex-Im supporters could try to attach it to unrelated, must-pass legislation.

Nearly two thirds of the Senate voted to bring back the Ex-Im in July as part of highway legislation, and Mr. McConnell alluded Tuesday to a six-year roads bill that’s being negotiated with the House.

“It’s pretty clear there are a significant number of senators who support [the bank],” he said. “The way to achieve Ex-Im, if it’s going to be achieved in the Senate, would be in the context of the highway bill.”

Tuesday’s debate reignited the fight over “regular order,” a legislative ideal in which bills are carefully vetted through committees before they went their way to the floor.

House Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling, Texas Republican who opposes the bank, said Ex-Im supporters tossed that process aside by circumventing his panel and forbidding amendments on the floor.

“Healthy debate on these issues, not discharge petitions for corporate welfare, are a much better use of Congress’ time. It’s hard work, but it is necessary for the American people,” Mr. Hensarling said.

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, Maryland Democrat, accused him of shedding “crocodile tears” over process, arguing the GOP majority frequently pushes bills on a closed rule that limits debate.

Both sides would agree that Tuesday’s vote was unusual. Congress hadn’t passed legislation by way of discharge petition since 2002, when members used it to push campaign finance reforms known as the McCain-Feingold Act.

Ex-Im supporters said they wielded the parliamentary tool because the bank’s demise was killing jobs and imposing trickle-down harm on midsized companies that make parts for Boeing, General Electric and other Ex-Im beneficiaries.

“Why anyone would vote against it,” Mr. Hoyer said, “is beyond me.”

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