Dems fail to force vote on Export-Import Bank

House Democrats on Tuesday failed in a bid to force reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank.

In an unexpected move that caught even the business community by surprise, Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.) offered an amendment on the House floor that would have brought a seven-year reauthorization bill for Ex-Im.

The amendment failed in a party line vote.

The bank has become a lightening rod among conservatives, with Tea Party groups like Heritage Action and the Club For Growth vehemently opposing its reauthorization.

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Critics have sought to portray the bank as "corporate welfare" and "cronyism," designed to finance big businesses like Boeing.

A broad coalition of business groups — including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers — is pushing for the bank's reauthorization, rallying small businesses nationwide in an effort to showcase how small businesses benefit from the federally backed bank.

Congress must reauthorize the bank by June 30 or it will shut down.

While the Democratic measure failed, top House Democrats used the floor time to criticize House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), the most prominent bank critic.

Hensarling's panel has jurisdiction over whether to advance a reauthorization bill through his committee. If he does not — and he's been tightlipped about his plans — then House leadership will have to weigh whether to buck the Tea Party in order to bring a bill directly to the floor.

"There's no intent to take up the Export-Import Bank," Rep. Denny HeckDennis (Denny) Lynn HeckExclusive: Guccifer 2.0 hacked memos expand on Pennsylvania House races Heck enjoys second political wind Incoming lawmaker feeling a bit overwhelmed MORE (D-Wash.) said on the House floor regarding Hensarling. "The committee of jurisdiction has not had a hearing, has not had a mark-up and has issued no notice on either."

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.) has a five-year Ex-Im reauthorization bill that includes more stringent transparency measures than the Democratic version. Fincher's bill has 58 Republican co-sponsors.

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), the top Democrat on the Financial Services Committee, praised Fincher's co-sponsors for "courageously" supporting the bank's charter.

"For months, a handful of extremists in this Chamber have refused to accept the numerous and widespread benefits provided by the Export-Import Bank to our economy," Waters said on the House floor. "I’m in disbelief that we are still debating the future of the Export-Import Bank."

The Democrats' gambit failed to advance as the House adopted what is known as a "previous question," or a parliamentary motion to end debate on a procedural vote.

That means that a vote against the previous question was a vote in favor of the Democrats' position to call for an immediate vote on reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank. The vote was 232-181.

Heck defended Boeing, which the bank's critics often note is the top beneficiary of the bank’s loan help.

"A company like Boeing, a pride of America ... you know what they rely on? Twelve-thousand businesses in their supply chain. Most of them are small," Heck said on the House floor.

Waters told The Hill after the vote that she was "disappointed that Republicans have blocked consideration of a common-sense proposal."

"Support for the Ex-Im Bank is bipartisan. I’m disappointed that today, those Republicans that do support the Bank gave in to the extremist wing of their party," Waters said.

Hensarling couldn't be reached for comment.

—Cristina Marcos contributed to this report.

Updated at 2:47 p.m.