Emerging from a dust cloud of political chaos in the House, a bipartisan coalition said Friday it had mustered enough support to bring back the federal Export-Import Bank, an obscure credit agency that expired after top conservatives accused it of handing out “corporate welfare” to companies that didn’t need it.
Three Republicans — Rep. Stephen Lee Fincher of Tennessee, Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois and Rep. Chris Collins of New York — said their discharge petition, a rarely used procedural tool, received 218 signatures from a mix of Democrats and Republicans to force a floor vote on reviving the bank.
Democratic leaders swiftly declared victory, contrasting their whiz-bang effort to whip up support for the petition to the Republicans’ struggle to corral its conservative wing and elect a replacement for departing House Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio.
“Democracy is messy. But it’s the best system that we know, and it works,” said Rep. Gwen Moore, Wisconsin Democrat.
Most Democrats and some Republicans want to reauthorize the bank known as “Ex-Im,” saying it supports jobs and has majority support in both chambers of Congress, and that top companies such as General Electric already have cut jobs because of turmoil at the agency.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, and her top lieutenants said they were confident that the bill would work its way through the House, likely on Oct. 26, and pass in the Senate, where more than 60 senators voted in July to revive the bank as part of a highway bill.
President Obama has urged Congress to revive the bank and assured his signature.
Yet House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling, Texas Republican, said the bank unfairly picked winners and losers in the free market.
He swiftly scolded Republicans who led the petition charge, saying they handed power to Democrats after the majority of Republican members on his committee rejected the bank, allowing it to expire June 30 and slowly unwind its remaining obligations.
“Let the Democrats own corporate welfare all by themselves,” Mr. Hensarling said. “Republicans should instead focus on reforms that will give every American greater opportunities to succeed.”
Though it’s extremely rare, a discharge petition was necessary after the House refused to follow the Senate’s lead and reauthorize the bank, according to its Republican sponsors.
“This cannot wait any longer. If we do not get this done for the American people, the only thing our country will be exporting is jobs,” they said.
Friday’s development amounts to a major win for centrist Republicans who support the credit agency over a conservative wing of the party that ousted Mr. Boehner and prodded his most likely successor, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, California Republican, to back out of the race to replace him, leaving the chamber in disarray.
Mr. McCarthy, whose decision to drop out of the race for speaker stunned fellow lawmakers Thursday, opposes the Ex-Im bank.
Mr. Boehner hasn’t taken sides in the fight, although he has pledged to allow Mr. Hensarling to amend any bill that comes to the floor.
For now, Democrats are relishing a victory amid the fray.
“It’s been a pretty tough couple of weeks around here,” said Rep. Denny Heck, Washington Democrat.