Ex-Im Bank supporters force House vote
© Greg Nash

House Republican centrists teamed up with Democrats Monday night to force a vote on reviving the Export-Import Bank, outraging conservative opponents of the agency.

Sixty-two Republicans voted with all Democrats in a 246-177 vote to begin the process of what’s known as a discharge petition. The tactic was last successfully used in 2002 to move campaign finance reform legislation.

The vote Monday evening discharges a rule establishing floor debate from the Rules Committee — the first hurdle in a three-step process.

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The House must now approve the rule before turning to the underlying legislation to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank, which finances U.S. exports abroad, into 2019. The House is expected to vote Tuesday on the rule and on passage of the underlying bill.

After clinching the necessary 218 votes for the discharge petition earlier this month, its sponsor, Rep. Stephen FincherStephen FincherRep. Fincher to retire Export-Import Bank takes step toward renewal Transportation deal includes Ex-Im renewal MORE (R-Tenn.), called up the motion Monday night to force its consideration.

“This discharge process offers the only means by which a majority of House members can secure a vote on a measure that is opposed by the chairman of the committee of jurisdiction and the majority leadership,” Fincher said.

“I ask my colleagues to join me in returning power to rank and file members,” he said.

But conservatives accused fellow Republicans supporting the discharge petition of handing control of the House floor to Democrats. Conservatives who view Ex-Im’s activities as cronyism thought they had scored a victory when the bank’s charter expired on June 30. 

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who opposes renewing the bank, has declined to schedule a floor vote to reauthorize it. 

“This is not regular order. This is shoving something down the American people’s throats,” said Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.).

House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), whose vociferous opposition to the Export-Import Bank led 42 business-minded Republicans to team up with Democrats on moving the legislation, lamented the lack of even one amendment vote.

“If this is going to come to the floor, every member ought to be allowed to have an amendment,” Hensarling said. 

Debate on the House floor brought the unusual sight of a bipartisan group of Republicans and Democrats facing off against Republicans, rather than the usual partisan sides.

“This discharge petition is not a rejection of regular order. Although rarely used, the discharge petition exists under House rules for the very purpose of ensuring that the will of a determined majority may ultimately prevail,” said Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), the top Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee.

Many members of the Freedom Caucus have voted against procedural rules in the past, drawing accusations from some fellow Republicans that they are empowering Democrats. Multiple Freedom Caucus members have received retribution for voting against rules, including removal from the GOP whip team and the temporary loss of a subcommittee gavel. 

Freedom Caucus members argue that siding with the minority on discharge petitions takes away the majority party’s ability to run the House floor to a much more dramatic extent than opposing rules.

In its questionnaire for Speaker candidates, the Freedom Caucus asks for their positions on discharge petitions and suggests lawmakers who vote for discharge petitions should face similar punishments as for opposing rules.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul RyanPaul RyanRepublicans seek to lower odds of a shutdown Trump: 'No doubt' we'll make a deal on healthcare Overnight Finance: WH wants to slash billions | Border wall funding likely on hold | Wells Fargo to pay 0M over unauthorized accounts | Dems debate revamping consumer board MORE (R-Wis.), who appears at this point to have the votes to succeed John BoehnerJohn BoehnerNunes rebuffs calls for recusal Wounded Ryan faces new battle Bottom Line MORE (R-Ohio) as Speaker this week, does not support the use of discharge petitions, according to a spokesman.

The Senate voted 67-26 in July to advance legislation authored by Sen. Mark KirkMark KirkObamaCare repeal bill would defund Planned Parenthood Leaked ObamaCare bill would defund Planned Parenthood GOP senator won't vote to defund Planned Parenthood MORE (R-Ill.), one of the most vulnerable GOP senators heading into 2016, to reauthorize the bank. That vote split Senate Republicans, with 26 voting against it and 24 voting with Democrats in support.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellSenate braces for fallout over Supreme Court fight Republicans seek to lower odds of a shutdown GOP torn over what to do next MORE (R-Ky.) personally opposes reauthorizing the bank but has said he is open to allowing a vote to attach it to other legislation such as a highway funding bill.

This story was updated at 7:46 p.m. and 7:57 p.m.