Supporters of the Export-Import Bank on Friday moved to force a House vote on extending the credit agency’s charter, an issue that has bitterly divided Republicans.
Led by Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-Tenn.), GOP backers of the bank joined with Democrats, led by House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) to execute a rare procedural motion that should lead to a vote by month’s end.
The motion, called a discharge petition, needs the support of a majority of the House — or 218 members — in order to move forward, a tally Ex-Im supporters said they have secured.
“We refuse to look any more hardworking Americans in the eye and say, ‘you lost your job because Congress refused to hold a vote,'” Fincher said in a statement. Only about 40 Republicans signed the discharge petition, meaning Fincher and his Republican allies had to rely mostly on Democratic support to force the vote.
The Export-Import Bank is the official credit export agency of the United States and it provides loans to help finance the sale of U.S. goods to foreign buyers. Over the last two years, it has become the subject of an intense lobbying fight with conservative Republicans pushing to kill the agency arguing it is a prime example of “crony capitalism.” It’s supporters argue it helps create jobs and is important to their districts.
Hoyer kickstarted the process in July when he approached Fincher to work on a bipartisan plan to revive the expired agency. Aides said the Democratic whip staff called every House Democrat, ultimately delivering more than 170 votes to bring the bill to the House floor.
House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) has led the fight to kill the bank and he and like-minded Republicans scored a major victory when Congress allowed its charter to expire at the end of June.
On Friday, Hensarling reacted angrily to the procedural maneuvering, arguing the Republicans pushing to reauthorize the bank’s charter should not be working with Democrats in this way.
“I hope all Republicans, regardless of their stand on this one issue, will recognize that signing a discharge petition sets a very serious, very dangerous precedent for our Republican majority that goes far beyond Ex-Im,” Hensarling said in a statement. “Signing a discharge petition puts the minority in charge and effectively makes Nancy Pelosi the Speaker of the House.”
Under the rules that govern the discharge petition, a vote on legislation to save the bank is likely to occur around Oct. 26.
The legislation faces an uncertain fate in the Senate.
While there is broad support among senators for renewing the bank’s charter, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is an opponent of doing so and his office said he has no plans to hold a vote on a stand-alone bill.
“The Senate is not going to spend a week on a bill the leader doesn’t support,” said McConnell spokesman Don Stewart, a reference to the amount of time it would take the Senate to debate and vote on the bill.
That means Ex-Im boosters will have to attach a charter extension to another piece of legislation moving through Congress in order for it to become law. Earlier this year, the Senate voted to attach a reauthorization of the bank to a highway bill, which has yet to be considered in the House.
The move by bank supporters comes as House Republicans are struggling to pick a speaker after House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) announced on Thursday he would not run to replace John Boehner (R-Ohio), who plans to leave Congress at the end of the month.
Hensarling in his statement cited the leadership tensions as a reason not to deal with Ex-Im right now.
“At a time when our Republican Conference is divided, this will divide it even further,” he said.
But the bank’s supporters shot back, arguing that the leadership mess is the result of a group of conservative Republicans who are pushing unrealistic demands and moderates will employ similar tactics to advance their agenda.
“If the Freedom Caucus and their 40 members can run this place, we’ll show them that 40 centrists can run this place too,” Rep. Denny Heck (D-Wash.)
Mike DeBonis contributed to this report.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said Heck was a Republican. He is a Democrat.