A majority of House Republicans joined all but one Democrat Tuesday in voting to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank, whose charter expired in June.
After a rare procedural move brought Export-Import to the House floor against the wishes of GOP leaders, the bank saw surprising support in the 313-118 vote to renew, including from 127 Republicans.
Supporters of the Export-Import Bank used a discharge petition to force the vote. The use of a discharge petition allows legislation to skip the committee process and go straight to the floor if a majority in the House backs the petition.
This is the first time a discharge petition has been used to dislodge legislation in the House since 2002, when the process was used for the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill.
While the votes are a big victory for supporters of the bank, it’s unclear whether it will lead to passage in the Senate.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellStudy: Trump tops recent GOP presidents in signing bills in first 100 days Senate passes stopgap funding bill to avert shutdown Let’s never talk about a government shutdown — ever again MORE (R-Ky.) opposes allowing a stand-alone Ex-Im bill to move in the upper chamber.
Asked Tuesday if Ex-Im reauthorization would get floor time amid a packed legislative schedule, McConnell told reporters on Tuesday: “Well, no, not in the Senate.”
Supporters appear to have the votes in the Senate to win reauthorization on the floor.
In July, 24 senators joined with Democrats in a 67-26 vote to advance a reauthorization bill written by Sen. Mark KirkMark KirkThe way forward on the Iran nuclear deal under President Trump ObamaCare repeal bill would defund Planned Parenthood Leaked ObamaCare bill would defund Planned Parenthood MORE (R-Ill.), one of the most vulnerable GOP senators heading into 2016.
One possible way forward for Ex-Im is for the reauthorization bill to be attached to another vehicle, such as legislation to renew highway funding.
Sen. John ThuneJohn ThuneWant to grow the economy? Make student loan repayment assistance tax-free. Net neutrality fight descends into trench warfare Hopes fade for using tax reform on infrastructure MORE (R-S.D.), the No. 3 Senate Republican, suggested supporters focus on that bill.
“I think that's probably — for Ex-Im Bank supporters — probably the best path forward,” he said.
Opponents of the bank also said the House vote raised the odds it will eventually be renewed by the Senate.
“Unfortunately, it looks like they’re going to be able to resurrect this thing,” said House Freedom Caucus Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio).
The GOP lawmakers voting for Ex-Im were frustrated business-minded Republicans who are typically leadership allies.
Rep. Stephen FincherStephen FincherRep. Fincher to retire Export-Import Bank takes step toward renewal Transportation deal includes Ex-Im renewal MORE (R-Tenn.) joined forces with House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) over the summer to spearhead the discharge petition, which requires 218 signatures to move forward.
“This is about us being competitive all around the world,” Fincher said.
The push to discharge Ex-Im intensified after House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) abruptly dropped out of the race this month to succeed BoehnerJohn BoehnerLobbyists bounce back under Trump Business groups silent on Trump's Ex-Im nominee Chaffetz won't run for reelection MORE as Speaker. House conservatives were blamed for McCarthy dropping out, and it energized Ex-Im supporters.
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul RyanPaul RyanRyan's home state highlights challenge for GOP high-risk insurer pools Trump 'disappointed' in congressional GOP Bipartisan push grows for new war authorization MORE (R-Wis.), who’s expected to be elected Speaker this week, is among the bank’s opponents. He also does not support the use of discharge petitions.
“This thing is crony capitalism,” Ryan said of the bank.
A spokesman for House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), a vocal opponent Ex-Im, said that a majority of Republicans on the bank's panel of jurisdiction oppose reauthorization.
"He is unaware of any committee chairman — Republican or Democrat — who ever moved a bill in committee that a majority of the majority opposes," spokesman Jeff Emerson said.
The use of the discharge petition has angered conservatives in the House Freedom Caucus, who argue that GOP lawmakers backing discharge petitions are empowering Democrats.
Leadership allies have argued that Freedom Caucus members should be punished for their votes against House GOP rules governing floor debate.
But Jordan said he doesn’t think lawmakers who vote for discharge petitions should be punished for voting their conscience either.
“I think they never should have tried to do what they did to Mark [Meadows],” Jordan said in an interview, referring to the North Carolina Republican punished by GOP leaders earlier this year for voting against a rule. “I don’t fault people for using whatever legal parliamentary maneuver they can use to advance what they believe in.”
Jordain Carney contributed.