McConnell promises Ex-Im Bank vote

McConnell promises Ex-Im Bank vote
© Greg Nash

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellTrump flirts with Dems for Cabinet Lawmakers eye early exit from Washington Confirm Scott Palk for the Western District of Oklahoma MORE (R-Ky.) saved fast-track trade authority, a centerpiece of President Obama’s second-term agenda, by promising Democrats that he would allow a vote next month to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank.

McConnell promised the vote to a group of bank supporters who huddled around him on the floor right before the presiding officer gaveled to a close a vote to advance trade promotion authority, also known as fast-track.

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Once McConnell pledged a vote on the reauthorization, a group of pro-trade Democrats, including Sens. Maria CantwellMaria CantwellOvernight Energy: Dakota pipeline standoff heats up Obama rescinds Arctic offshore drilling proposal Overnight Energy: Hopes rise for Flint aid MORE (Wash.), Patty MurrayPatty MurrayOvernight Finance: Trump takes victory lap at Carrier plant | House passes 'too big to fail' revamp | Trump econ team takes shape Senate Dems: Force Cabinet nominees to release tax returns Dems press Trump to keep Obama overtime rule MORE (Wash.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Chris Coons (Del.), Claire McCaskill (Mo.) and Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.) voted to cut off debate on fast-track and advance it to a final up-or-down vote.

“I’m glad that we have a path forward on both Ex-Im and trade. Mitch gave a commitment that we would have a vote in June,” Murray told reporters.

Senate Republican Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) said McConnell promised to give them a chance to offer the Ex-Im Bank reauthorization as an amendment to one of the bills moving on the floor next month.

“There’s going to be several bills going across the floor of the Senate in June so there will be an opportunity for the proponents to offer an amendment on a bill in June," he said. “That’s really the only offer that Sen. McConnell can make because he’s personally opposed to the Ex-Im Bank but he’s made this pledge in good faith.”

The promise could prove controversial with conservative groups, such as Heritage Action for America, who are fighting to terminate it.

“In 44 days, the Export-Import Bank will begin winding down its operations. This presents a historic opportunity for congressional conservatives to not only end one of FDR’s creations, but to demonstrate to voters that America’s conservative party is fighting favoritism and cronyism in Washington,” Dan Holler, Heritage Action’s communications director, wrote in a memo dated May 18.

The bank’s charter is due to expire at the end of June.  

McConnell has said he personally opposes the bank's renewal, but a spokesman noted he has repeatedly said he's willing to allow the Senate to take a vote on the issue.

McConnell spokesman Don Stewart said that the leader "has been clear that while he does not support the reauthorization of the Ex-Im Bank, he is willing to have a vote and see where the Senate stands on the issue."
 
Kevin Cirilli contributed to this story.