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Ex-Im backers eye transportation bill as reauthorization vehicle

Supporters of the Export-Import Bank are eying the Highway Trust Fund as a potential vehicle for extending the bank's charter, which expires June 30.

Sources in the business community and Congressional staffers in both parties said that supporters of the bank's renewal are growing increasingly skeptical that a stand-alone reauthorization bill will make it to the House floor before the June 30 deadline.

Lawmakers in the Senate, meanwhile, are trying to beat a May 31 deadline to prevent an interruption in the federal government's transportation funding that could serve as a vehicle for Ex-Im's reauthorization.

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"The Senate thinks they need to put Ex-Im on a moving vehicle and the Highway bill has that capacity," said one senior aide to a Democratic member who supports the bank's reauthorization.

House Financial Services Committee chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) hasn't said whether he will move a reauthorization bill through his committee.

Hensarling scheduled a full committee hearing on the bank for June 3 — four days after the Highway deadline.

An outspoken critic of the bank, Hensarling has said that more than half the Republicans on his panel are against its reauthorization.

Hensarling is joined by the Tea Part, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Rep. Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanOn The Money: Senate confirms Gensler to lead SEC | Senate GOP to face off over earmarks next week | Top Republican on House tax panel to retire Trump faces test of power with early endorsements Lobbying world MORE (R-Wis.) in deriding the bank as "cronyism" and "corporate welfare."

The business community, along with Republicans like House Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerCantor: 'Level of craziness' in Washington has increased 'on both sides' Cheney on Trump going to GOP retreat in Florida: 'I haven't invited him' Republicans race for distance from 'America First Caucus' MORE (R-Ohio) and Sen. Mark KirkMark Steven KirkDuckworth announces reelection bid Brave new world: Why we need a Senate Human Rights Commission  Senate majority battle snags Biden Cabinet hopefuls MORE (R-Ill.) — and most Democrats — argue that the bank sustains U.S. jobs by financing projects in emerging markets overseas.

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Opponents of the bank say the legislative maneuver would likely fail. 

“It is conventional wisdom to believe the Senate can ‘jam the House’ but in reality the rules make that extremely difficult without the active consent of [Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell vents over 'fake news' The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Tensions rise as U.S. waits for Derek Chauvin verdict Trump looking 'beyond seriously' at 2024 run MORE (R-Ky.)], who opposes the bank," said Dan Holler, a spokesman for Heritage Action, which opposes the bank.

Another aide, however, suggested that there are even more vehicles to move a reauthorization bill forward.

"Between trade, cybersecurity and transportation, there are a number of vehicles they could use to push forward with Ex-Im — it’s just a matter of how they’re going to do it," said one GOP aide of a member who supports the bank.

An aide to Sen. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampBill Maher blasts removal of journalist at Teen Vogue Centrist Democrats pose major problem for progressives Harrison seen as front-runner to take over DNC at crucial moment MORE (D-N.D.) said that the senator is "working to find the right path forward for the bill and that could mean trying to include it in a larger legislative package in the near future."

Heitkamp introduced a reauthorization bill with Kirk in the upper chamber. McConnell has said he will bring a reauthorization bill for a vote despite his own objection to the bank.

Kate Bernard, spokeswoman for the Exporters for Ex-Im Coalition, said that "it's clear that a majority of the Senate is ready to support Ex-Im reauthorization when it comes to the floor.

"[There's] very few legislative days between now and June 30, there is simply no reason to delay a vote on this critical issue," she said.