Pelosi backs discharge petition on Ex-Im
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House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiSunday shows preview: Democrats eye two-part infrastructure push; Michigan coronavirus cases surge Pence pleaded with military officials to 'clear the Capitol' on Jan. 6: AP Democrats see political winner in tax fight MORE (D-Calif.) vowed Thursday that Democrats will happily join Republican supporters of the Export-Import Bank in their bid to force a vote to renew its charter.

With GOP leaders refusing to bring a vote on the bank's reauthorization, Rep. Stephen FincherStephen Lee FincherTrump announces, endorses ambassador to Japan's Tennessee Senate bid Lamar Alexander's exit marks end of an era in evolving Tennessee Tensions on immigration erupt in the House GOP MORE (R-Tenn.) began circulating a discharge petition this week designed to circumvent those leaders and force the bill to the floor — a procedure that would require 218 lawmaker signatures.

Pelosi, who like most Democrats is a strong supporter of the bank, said Thursday that her party will endorse that petition in "overwhelming" numbers — provided Fincher can make up the difference with Republican signatures.

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"If Republicans have enough people on their discharge petition, then we will join in and then go from there," Pelosi said during a press briefing in the Capitol. "And I'm optimistic that they will from what I hear on the other side."

Once an issue of broad bipartisan agreement, the Ex-Im Bank has become much more contentious in recent years with the rise of conservative voices on and off of Capitol Hill who deem it "corporate welfare" and want it eliminated.

The bank is designed to help U.S. businesses by providing government financing for domestic-made products sold to foreign buyers. Its charter expired on June 30.

The opposition has been led by Rep. Jeb HensarlingThomas (Jeb) Jeb HensarlingLawmakers battle over future of Ex-Im Bank House passes Ex-Im Bank reboot bill opposed by White House, McConnell Has Congress lost the ability or the will to pass a unanimous bipartisan small business bill? MORE (R-Texas), head of the House Financial Services Committee, who gained a strong ally in his fight when Majority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyRepublican House campaign arm rakes in .7 million in first quarter McCarthy asks FBI, CIA for briefing after two men on terror watchlist stopped at border Harris in difficult starring role on border MORE (R-Calif.), a one-time supporter of the bank, reversed that position last year.

House Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerHarry Reid reacts to Boehner book excerpt: 'We didn't mince words' Cruz on Boehner: 'I wear with pride his drunken, bloviated scorn' Boehner on Clinton impeachment: 'I regret that I didn't fight against it' MORE (R-Ohio) has suggested he'd like a more gradual phase-out of the bank, warning that jobs will be lost if it's eliminated altogether. But he also hasn't actively pushed for any reauthorization bill, leaving the fate of the bank in Hensarling's hands.

Fincher, the sponsor of the reauthorization bill, said “it’s unfortunate" that he's been forced to pursue the discharge petition tactic.

"But we’ve got no choice," he said Wednesday. "We need a vote."

Under the GOP-led House, Democrats have tried to use discharge petitions to force votes on a number of proposals, including immigration reform, a hike in the minimum wage and campaign finance reform. Those petitions never had a chance of winning the Republican support needed to hit the 218-signature mark.

But with Fincher and other GOP supporters of the bank lining up — and with House leadership in disarray following Boehner's decision to resign from Congress on Oct. 30 — Pelosi said she likes the odds of this one.

Pelosi noted that the rare procedure was successful in securing passage of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law in 2002. She said she had high hopes that the political conditions are right to repeat that success on the Ex-Im bill.

"It'll be really important for us to see how many signatures the Republicans have on the discharge  petition, because we'll have an overwhelming vote if they bring the bill to the floor," she said. "But we want to see what number they have, and I'm excited about it."