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.
Forty-two Republicans signed the petition earlier this month, which led to a vote on discharging the measure from the House Rules Committee. Sixty-two Republicans voted Monday in favor of discharging the bill, though a majority of Republicans then voted for the underlying legislation.
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 McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSenate nearing deal on defense bill after setback On The Money — Powell pivots as inflation rises Schumer eyeing Build Back Better vote as soon as week of Dec. 13 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 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.), 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 Randolph ThuneSenate nearing deal on defense bill after setback Congress's goal in December: Avoid shutdown and default No deal in sight as Congress nears debt limit deadline 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 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.) 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 Andrew BoehnerFeehery: The next Republican wave is coming Rift widens between business groups and House GOP Juan Williams: Pelosi shows her power 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 Davis RyanNo time for the timid: The dual threats of progressives and Trump Juan Williams: Pelosi shows her power Cheney takes shot at Trump: 'I like Republican presidents who win re-election' 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.