Tenn. rep introduces bill to reauthorize Ex-Im

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.) introduced legislation on Wednesday that would reauthorize the Export-Import Bank for five years.

Fifty-seven other Republicans joined Fincher in co-sponsoring the legislation, obtained first by The Hill. Congress must reauthorize the bank before June 30 or it will shut down.

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Tea Partyers have criticized the bank as a form of "cronyism" and "corporate welfare" for big businesses. But centrist Republicans and Democrats argue that the bank helps sustain domestic jobs and allows for U.S. businesses to make inroads in emerging markets where the private sector won't finance deals.

Fincher, a member of the House Financial Services Committee, noted that his bill includes reforms to the bank that he says will make it more transparent, such as requiring an independent audit of the bank's financing portfolio.

The bill would also reverse Ex-Im rules that restrict the Bank from financing projects with power plants that decline to adopt greener technology. That provision is championed by the coal industry but opposed by environmental groups.

“The U.S. Ex-Im Bank has been a job-creator since its inception," Fincher said in a statement.

Fincher was joined by six other Republican members of the House Financial Services Committee in supporting the bill: Reps. Peter King (N.Y.), Frank Lucas (Okla.), Steve Stivers (Ohio), Randy Hultgren, (Ill.), Bob Dold (Ill.) and Ann Wagner (Mo.), who is the House GOP senior deputy whip.

A spokesman for House Financial Services Committee Chairman 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), a top Ex-Im critic whose panel has jurisdiction over the bill, could not immediately be reached for comment. He has not yet said whether he will move the bill through committee.

Two sources working on Ex-Im's reauthorization who declined to be named said they hope the bloc of Republican co-sponsors will be enough to pressure Hensarling into moving a bill through committee. And if he won't act, they hope Republican House leadership brings a bill to the floor. 

"There's not a super clear path forward," one of the sources said. "But this is a great marker and a great indicator of robust Republican support. This number will grow. And it's an indicator to House leadership that there's a good number of Republicans who want to get Ex-Im reauthorized."

Tony Fratto, a former senior White House official in the George W. Bush administration, said the 58 co-sponsors is further proof that there's "broad support for reauthorizing Ex-Im."

"Getting 58 co-sponsors is strong, especially with Hensarling so opposed," said Fratto, who is managing director at Hamilton Place Strategies, which is working to reauthorize Ex-Im. "This isn't the right fight, and members know it -- every one of them has constituents, small businesses, workers, who want to keep Ex-Im."

Dan Holler, spokesman for Tea Party group Heritage Action, criticized the Fincher bill and pushed for Congress to let the bank's charter expire.

"If the GOP wants to use their historic House majority to hand out favors to K Street lobbyists and well-connected special interests, they should pass the Fincher bill," Holler said.

Congress agreed to a short-term, nine-month Ex-Im reauthorization last fall when the measure was tied to a stopgap spending bill to avert a government shutdown.

So far, no companion legislation has been introduced in the Senate, though most Ex-Im watchers believe the upper chamber has the votes to reauthorize the bank if leadership allows a bill on the floor.

Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), a prominent supporter of Ex-Im, chairs the Senate Banking subcommittee on National Security and International Trade and Finance, which has traditionally had jurisdiction on Ex-Im. A spokesperson for Kirk could not be immediately reached for comment.

Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, was one of four co-sponsors last Congress on a failed amendment that would have increased Ex-Im's lending capacity from $100 billion to $140 billion. 

Industry officials took Shelby's support for the amendment as a sign he was supportive of Ex-Im reauthorization. A spokesman for Shelby could not immediately be reached for comment.

Kevin Varney, a principal at 32 Advisors who is advising companies that support Ex-Im reauthorization, touted the number of co-sponsors.

“The bill underscores the growing support in the new Congress for Ex-Im re-authorization," said Varney, a former senior Clinton administration official and former Ex-Im senior vice president.

This story was last updated at 4:24 p.m.