USA Today: House uses rare procedure to revive Export-Import bank


WASHINGTON — The House launched a rare effort Monday to circumvent Republican leadership in hopes of reviving the Export-Import Bank, which conservatives managed to choke off earlier this year.

[Reposted from USA Today  |  Paul Singer, Nathan Bomey and Paul Davidson  |  October 26, 2015]

The procedure, known as a "discharge petition," basically allows a simple majority of the House to force the House to vote to extend the bank's charter. In the Monday vote, 62 Republicans joined 184 Democrats to exceed the 218 votes needed to force the bill to the House floor over the objections of 177 GOP lawmakers. A final vote to extend the bank's charter through 2019 will likely come Tuesday.

It is not clear what the future of the bill will be in the Senate. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has said he does not intend to bring it to the floor. The Senate previously approved extending the bank as part of a highway bill the House did not take up.

The bill had languished in the Financial Services Committee, because Republican Chairman Jeb Hensarling of Texas was part of a group of House conservatives who believed the bank provided federally backed favors for well-connected corporations.

Hensarling vigorously opposed the discharge petition, saying it undermines the normal legislative process and gives Democrats control of the House agenda. In a letter to colleagues last week, Hensarling and Rules Chairman Pete Sessions, R-Texas, said Monday's vote is about "whether a minority of our (Republican) Conference will find common cause with Democrats whenever we have an internal disagreement, use this uncommon, extreme Discharge Petition process, and force a vote when a majority of the majority does not want a vote." The last time the House approved a discharge petition was 2002, for a campaign finance bill.

The discharge effort was started by Tennessee Republican Stephen Fincher, who argues that the bank boosts U.S. jobs by financing the export of American goods and services. The discharge petition, Fincher said, was necessary because "the House Financial Services Committee's refusal to negotiate this bill for more than a year has been heartbreaking. American job creators deserve an up-or-down vote on the Ex-Im Bank."

Business groups have pushed hard to renew the bank's charter. The bank provides loans and loan guarantees to allow foreign customers to buy U.S. goods and services.

In fiscal 2014, the Ex-Im Bank provided financing for exports valued at $27.5 billion that supported about 164,000 US jobs, according to the Business Roundtable.

The expiration of the bank’s charter in late June left several thousand small and medium-size exporters without adequate access to capital, the National Association of Manufacturers says. The bank will support 64,000 fewer jobs this year because of the expiration of its charter in July, according to estimates by the office of Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Wis.

Without renewal, more than 500 U.S. companies will lose credit insurance from September through December, according to NAM.

Although it’s difficult to ascertain how many jobs have been affected by the Ex-Im Bank’s hiatus, several major beneficiaries have blamed the uncertainty for job cuts.

Last month, GE said it would move 350 jobs from a power and water plant in Waukesha, Wis., to Canada as a result of the failure to reauthorize the bank.

Boeing spokesman Tim Neale told USA TODAY on Monday that the airplane manufacturer’s recently announced plans to cut several hundred jobs in its satellite division was partially related to the Export-Import Bank’s hiatus.

“It was not the only factor but it was a key factor in that decision,” Neale said.

Many of its foreign customers, Boeing argues, can't get loans to buy U.S.-built planes without help from the bank.

About 15% of Boeing’s deliveries, measured by dollar value, are tied to Export-Import loan guarantees. The company is the largest U.S.-based beneficiary of the Export-Import Bank’s efforts.

Absent Ex-Im, Neale said Boeing would be forced to either ensure financing for its own customers or relinquish customers to its competitors, such as Airbus, the European aircraft manufacturer that receives similar support from the European Union.

Still, critics describe the Export-Import Bank as legal subsidies for major corporations that put smaller exporters at a disadvantage and manipulate the economy.

“General Electric and the other major beneficiaries of the bank (and their suppliers) are well-positioned to prosper without Ex–Im subsidies,” Heritage Foundation senior research fellow Diane Katz said in a July 13 blog post. “They do not lack access to private capital — including their own finance subsidiaries. All have billions of dollars of back orders with which to keep production going.”

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