Senate Democrats plan July vote on Ex-Im Bank

 

Senate Democrats plan to hold a vote in July on reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Tuesday.

Schumer said he expects a bipartisan bill renewing the bank's charter will reach the Senate floor before the August recess, creating pressure on House Republicans to act. The bank's charter is set to expire Sept. 30.

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"I think that if we can pass it in the Senate particularly with a good bipartisan majority ... it will put pressure on the House,” he told reporters during a conference call.

Schumer said he has spoken about the bank bill with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who "understands the importance" of getting it to the floor.

The bank’s reauthorization has the support of powerful business groups including the Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers, who say the agency's loan support is critical for exports.

But the push faces hurdles from House conservatives who argue the bank is a form of “crony capitalism” that helps big businesses such as Boeing at the expense of other companies.

Incoming House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said this time around he will oppose the bank’s continuation, and Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has backed away from any endorsements of the bank, instead stating that any legislation needs to run through the committee process.

House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), whose panel has jurisdiction, wants to see the bank’s charter expire. Still, several GOP members of that panel argued last week that the bank is a necessity for many businesses in their districts and should be reauthorized with reforms.

Democrats are using the debate over the Ex-Im Bank to try and drive a wedge between the GOP and the business community ahead of the midterm elections. Schumer said the Chamber, in particular, should take a closer look at which candidates they support.

“I’ve said this to [Chamber President] Tom Donohue and to others, in many ways mainstream Democrats are closer to you than many Republicans, because the Tea Party has pulled them so far to the right that they are doing what’s harmful to business,” Schumer said.

“I hope they would examine that, absolutely.”

Schumer said the Ex-Im Bank is going down the same legislative path of other business priorities that have gained support in the Senate, such as the highway bill, tax extenders and immigration, only to stall in the House.

“All of the sudden our Republican colleagues, particularly in the House, frightened by a small group that has a lot of power, the Tea Party, has changed their point of view in a way that really hurts the country and hurts the middle class and hurts jobs,” Schumer said.

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) said she believes there is broad support from both parties in the Senate for a reauthorization of the Ex-Im Bank despite the resistance from conservatives.

"We believe that the case is absolutely stellar for moving this in July,” Heitkamp said.

“We also believe there are votes in the House, so hopefully that will happen."

Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Republican Sen. Mark Kirk (Ill.), among others, are expected to introduce legislation on the bank soon, Schumer said, and Senate Banking Committee Chairman Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) has expressed a desire to move a bill quickly through his panel.

While Democratic senators said they are happy to entertain more reforms to the bank on top of those implemented from the 2012 bill, "we don’t want it to be an excuse for them to not support Ex-Im Bank,” said Sen. Maria Cantwell (D), whose home state of Washington is home to Boeing.

“The bank now operates with a great deal of transparency,” said Cantwell, because of changes made in 2012.

She said that Rep. Denny Heck (D-Wash.), who has introduced a seven-year reauthorization in the House, has told her that there is already enough support in the House to pass a bill.

The question is, “why not let them vote and bring it up as soon as possible?" Cantwell said. 

— This story was updated at 2:42 p.m.