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 FincherFormer Tennessee rep enters race for Corker's Senate seat Tennessee Gov. Haslam won't run for Senate Rep. Fincher to retire 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 RyanGOP rep: Virginia defeat 'a referendum' on Trump administration After Texas shooting, lawmakers question whether military has systemic reporting problem Pence: Praying 'takes nothing away' from trying to figure out causes behind mass shooting MORE (R-Wis.), who appears at this point to have the votes to succeed John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerThe two-party system is dying — let’s put it out of its misery One year later, neither party can get past last year's election White House strikes back at Bushes over legacy 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 KirkHigh stakes as Trump heads to Hill Five things to watch for at Trump-Senate GOP meeting Giffords, Scalise highlight party differences on guns 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 McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell expects Paul to return to Senate next week Former Hill staff calls for mandatory harassment training Gaming the odds of any GOP tax bill getting signed into law 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.