House bid to revive Ex-Im has support for vote, backer says

WASHINGTON – House members who want to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank have enough commitments of support to force a floor vote, one supporter said Friday.

Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois signed a petition designed to bring a bill to the floor over the objections of some party leaders. He said supporters have enough commitments to succeed. Signing of the petition began Friday.

“We’re there,” Kinzinger said.

A Democratic leadership aide said 40 Republicans had signed the petition by mid-morning and that enough Democrats were expected to sign by the end of the day to get the 218 signatures needed to force a floor vote.

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The Ex-Im Bank provides loans and other support to overseas customers of U.S. companies such as Boeing and General Electric. Its charter expired on June 30, and Tennessee Republican Stephen Fincher has been leading a long-shot bid to force consideration of legislation to revive the 81-year-old institution. Logan Ramsey, a spokesman for Fincher, didn’t immediately return an email seeking comment.

“I care about ensuring our domestic manufacturers can create the quality, family sustaining jobs of tomorrow, right in our back yards,” Rep. Tom Reed, a Republican from New York, said in a statement. “By reauthorizing the Export Import Bank, we are making it easier for them to do just that.”

House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling of Texas opposes the bank and has refused to push legislation reauthorizing the bank through his committee. Hensarling and other Republicans who oppose the bank say it mostly helps big corporations that don’t need government assistance.

Republican House leadership is divided. Outgoing Speaker John Boehner of Ohio has said he worries the demise of Ex-Im will cause job losses, as some companies have already signaled, while Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California has called for an end to the institution. McCarthy on Thursday dropped his bid to succeed Boehner as speaker.

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Fincher is using a rarely used procedural maneuver, known as a discharge petition, to force the chamber to vote on a bill that would reauthorize the bank through September 2019. He needs the signatures of at least 218 members of the House to succeed in bypassing the committee process typically used to advance legislation to a vote. The House would be able to vote on the measure later this month.

Still, should the House opt to renew the bank, the Senate would then have the final say. Opponents of the bank are counting on Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to block a Senate vote even if Fincher prevails.

McConnell, a Kentucky Republican who has said he’s opposed to the bank, doesn’t plan to allow a vote on separate legislation to reauthorize Ex-Im, his spokesman Don Stewart said in an email this week. Stewart said McConnell doesn’t want to waste the time required to get the bill through all the procedural hurdles that would come before a vote.

“The leader has no plans to spend a week or more on this bill he doesn’t support,” Stewart said. That doesn’t mean the Senate wouldn’t consider language to reauthorize the bank if it were done as part of another measure – the Republican-controlled Senate overwhelmingly voted in July to amend a long-term highway funding measure to include language to revive Ex-Im. That effort went nowhere when the House left for an August recess without voting on that bill.

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Ex-Im has been unable to approve new requests for financial assistance after its charter expired June 30. Since then, Fairfield, Connecticut-based GE has announced plans to shift hundreds of U.S. jobs to other countries, and directly tied the decision to the lapse of Ex-Im.

Boeing, Ex-Im’s biggest beneficiary, may also lose business due to the lapse in the bank’s charter. South Africa’s Comair Ltd. said in a Sept. 28 letter to Chicago-based Boeing that it may have to drop $1.1 billion in jet deliveries due to begin in October after struggling to line up financing without U.S. government assistance.

Even so, it’s by no means a done deal. Ex-Im advocates will encounter resistance from conservative groups opposed to the bank, including Americans for Prosperity, whose spokesman Levi Russell said it will track any vote that “includes bringing Ex-Im back from the dead.” The group’s president Tim Phillips has said there will be consequences for lawmakers who vote to save the bank.

Rep. John Carter, a Texas Republican, said this week he won’t back Fincher’s move and believes most Republicans won’t sign the petition out of respect for leadership.

“I’m old school,” Carter said in an interview. “I learned early on you just don’t do that.