Ex-Im backers force vote to renew bank

Ex-Im backers force vote to renew bank
© Greg Nash

A group of House Republicans on Friday gathered the support necessary to force a vote to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank, roiling conservatives within their own party during a heated leadership race.

GOP Reps. Stephen FincherStephen FincherRep. Fincher to retire Export-Import Bank takes step toward renewal Transportation deal includes Ex-Im renewal MORE (Tenn.), Chris Collins (N.Y.) and Adam Kinzinger (Ill.) filed a rarely used procedural tactic, known as a discharge petition, early Friday morning that would compel a vote on Fincher's five-year reauthorization of the bank, whose Congressional charter lapsed June 30.

Within Hours, they collected the 218 votes needed on a discharge petition to bring legislation directly to the House floor and bypass committee.

A vote is expected sometime near Oct. 26, according to aides. There is widespread support for the bank in the Senate. But it's unclear whether Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellOvernight Healthcare: Trump threatens to leave ObamaCare in place if GOP bill fails Senate GOP hedges on ObamaCare repeal timeline Chao: Trump tapped into 'a strain of anxiety,' 'fear' MORE (R-Ky.) will spend much time on legislation that he personally does not support.

For weeks, Fincher worked with a small team of his GOP colleagues and Hoyer to convince enough members to support the petition.
 
The decision to enact the seldom-used procedural move bucks House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), a staunch opponent of the bank whose panel has jurisdiction on the issue.

Hensarling slammed Republicans' tactics in a statement, at a time when Republicans have yet to elect a successor to replace outgoing House Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerDem senator to reintroduce ‘buy American’ legislation GOP senators offer bill to require spending cuts with debt-limit hikes Pelosi blasts Trump’s ‘rookie error’ on ObamaCare repeal MORE (R-Ohio), who is stepping down Oct. 31.

"Signing a discharge petition puts the minority in charge and effectively makes Nancy Pelosi [D-Calif.] the Speaker of the House," Hensarling said in a statement.

Hensarling added that "at a time when our Republican Conference is divided, this will divide it even further."

"Signing a discharge petition — regardless of the issue — gives the Democrats control over our agenda," he added. "That’s why they are so eager to sign it."

In the end, Fincher said he had no choice.

"It breaks my heart that comments like that are made," Fincher said, responding to Hensarling's criticism of his political tactic. "Chairman Hensarling is a good man who cares about America and I respect him to the highest degree. We disagree on this one issue."

And while Hensarling said that a majority of the Republicans on his panel do not support the bank, Fincher suggested that more would've been open to supporting his legislation if there was a mark-up on the bill in committee.

"We don't know how many people would've supported it on the committee because we didn't have an opportunity to mark it up or approve it," Fincher said.
 
His frustration underscores conservative criticism with BoehnerJohn BoehnerDem senator to reintroduce ‘buy American’ legislation GOP senators offer bill to require spending cuts with debt-limit hikes Pelosi blasts Trump’s ‘rookie error’ on ObamaCare repeal MORE's leadership team, which some have argued has taken away power from committee chairs.

Boehner had promised publicly to allow for any type of Ex-Im vote to move through "regular order," which conservatives interpreted to mean as through the committee process.
 
"By their very definition, a discharge petition is not regular order," said one senior Republican aide to a member who opposes the bank.

On policy, Hensarling and other conservatives — joining with groups like Heritage Action, Club for Growth and Freedom Partners — have argued for years that the federally backed bank is a form of "corporate welfare." They say it only finances giant corporations like Boeing, Caterpillar and General Electric.

Fincher was blunt about the staunch opposition from outside groups.
 
"I don't work for Club For Growth or Heritage," Fincher said. "This is about jobs. This is common sense. Some of my colleagues picked this issue to make a political statement for outside groups. Our constituents deserve better than narrow-minded political games."
 
Heritage has scored Fincher's conservative credentials at 81 percent — 13 percentage points higher than the average House Republican rating of 68 percent.
 
"I'm sure it'll go down now," he quipped.

The business community — led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers — furiously lobbied for the bank's reauthorization, arguing that the bank's financing of corporations sustains millions of American jobs through supply chain businesses.

Procedurally, Ex-Im supporters strongly argue that Fincher's maneuvering is strictly in line with House rules, and thereby makes it regular order.

In an interview earlier this week, Fincher pushed back hard against any criticism that he wasn't following regular order.

“I’m a Republican filing the petition,” Fincher told The Hill earlier this week. “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.”

Fincher said that Ex-Im critics did not follow regular order because they refused to mark-up his legislation.

"We didn't have an opportunity to vote on it in Committee. We never had mark-ups," Fincher said. "My action follows regular order. This is a Republican-led discharge petition. ... We have tried to negotiate a deal for the last year but there was not one to be had."
 
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said in a statement he was "very pleased that a bipartisan majority ... are coming together to force a vote" to reauthorize the bank.

“A clear majority of the House supports the Bank, and for months, I have been calling on Republican leadership to allow the House to work its will," Hoyer said. "Today, we are demonstrating that the will of the majority cannot be ignored."
 
This story was updated at 12:22 p.m.