Ex-Im petition roils GOP meeting

Greg Nash

Conservative frustration over Republican efforts to force a House vote on reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank boiled over Wednesday during a contentious GOP meeting.

Members of the conference’s conservative wing criticized Rep. Stephen FincherStephen FincherRep. Fincher to retire Export-Import Bank takes step toward renewal Transportation deal includes Ex-Im renewal MORE (R-Tenn.) at the meeting for moving to file a discharge petition to bring a vote on legislation renewing the embattled bank’s charter for five years, after it lapsed June 30 because of Tea Party opposition.

“A lot of people don’t like that we’re doing a discharge petition. You know what? I don’t like it. I wish we could’ve done something in committee,” -Fincher said in an interview after the meeting.

He acknowledged that “there were a lot of emotions at our meeting this morning, which we expected. But this is about jobs. This is a very difficult thing, we don’t have any other choice.”

Despite the opposition, Fincher said he has the 218 signatures needed force a vote on the House floor. He intends to file the petition by Sunday.

Supporters of the bank turned to the little-used procedure after House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) refused to take up the bill, which falls under his jurisdiction and GOP leadership declined to bring it directly to the floor. 

The move faces of strong opposition from House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), the likely successor to outgoing Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerTrump may pose problem for Ryan in Speaker vote Conservatives backing Trump keep focus on Supreme Court Vote House Republicans out MORE (R-Ohio), who will resign at the end of the month.

Many Tea Partyers are skeptical of McCarthy’s conservative credentials, though he reversed his support for the bank last year and now opposes it. Behind the scenes, conservatives say they’re monitoring how forcefully McCarthy will push to kill the petition.

Fincher said that McCarthy voiced his “disapproval” of the discharge petition during a phone call on Tuesday night.

“He’s not in favor of this at all,” Fincher said. “We talked last night, and he told me that he has disapproval and dissatisfaction about what I’m doing.”

He declined to go into specifics of the conversation.

Hensarling and other Ex-Im critics have been adamant that a majority of Republicans on the Financial Services panel do not support reauthorizing the bank and therefore should not be forced to move legislation through the committee. 

Democrats and business-friendly Republicans, meanwhile, argue that the bank’s federally backed financing of U.S. corporations helps sustain millions of domestic jobs, countering the conservative criticism that the bank is just free taxpayer money for giant corporations.

A senior aide to one conservative member who opposes the bank said that Hensarling and Reps. Sean DuffySean DuffyDistrict Court right to target CFPB Tech groups file court brief opposing internet transition suit Yellen defends Fed from Trump attacks MORE (R-Wis.), Andy BarrAndy BarrHow we can boost the economy through foreign direct investment Wells Fargo scandal strikes fear into smaller rivals Consumer bureau remains partisan target after Wells Fargo settlement MORE (R-Ky.), Bill Huizenga (R-Mich.) and Tom McClintock (R-Calif.) all voiced frustration with the discharge petition process.

“This discharge petition makes common cause with Democrats. It eviscerates regular order and it takes away work by the Financial Services Committee,” the aide said. “Republicans should think wisely before trying this parliamentary tactic.”

Nearly all of the Democratic Caucus is expected to support Fincher’s petition, but the final Republican tally is unclear. 

The conservative aide noted that Hensarling has floated the idea of having a specific conference meeting to discuss Ex-Im, as opposed to “just a regular weekly meeting to discuss a variety of things.”

Fincher pushed back on conservatives’ assertion that the discharge petition doesn’t follow regular order. 

“I’m a Republican filing the petition,” Fincher said. “This is a Republican procedure. This is not a Democrat procedure. If Democrats want to support our conservative idea to reauthorize and reform the bank, I’m happy to have them.”

Ex-Im supporters outside of Congress working to reauthorize the bank are still hesitant to declare victory. 

“There’s a lot of moving parts right now,” said one industry source. “Even if the House does pass this thing, who’s to say that the Senate will retake up the legislation with such a crowded legislative calendar?”

A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellRubio: GOP Congress could go in different direction than Trump Pelosi blasts GOP leaders for silence on Trump Reid: Groping accusations show Trump’s ‘sickness’ MORE (R-Ky.), who opposes the bank, told Reuters on Tuesday that McConnell “has no plans to spend a week or more on [an Ex-Im bill] he doesn’t support.”

Fincher said that he’s “more than confident” the Senate will find a way to reauthorize the bank if the House can move to file a discharge petition by Sunday.

“This is getting ridiculous. A clear majority of Congress wants to reauthorize the bank,” Fincher said. “So let’s just do it already.”