House Poised to Let Ex-Im Bank Charter Expire
The House will consider its seventh appropriations bill of the year this week — one to fund the Interior Department and related activities — and possibly more legislation related to trade in the event the Senate keeps to its schedule.
But with only four scheduled legislative work days left before the weeklong July 4 recess, there’s one thing the House is not expected to take up: reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank.
The now-likely expiration of the bank’s charter on the last day of this month is a fate supporters of the bank, which provides credit and financing for U.S. export sales, predicted back in the waning days of 2014, when lawmakers were negotiating the terms of a government-funding bill.
Disconnecting the bank’s sunset date from “must-pass” legislation was a key element of the strategy for Ex-Im opponents, who want to see funding for the credit agency lapse without the political costs associated with a larger shutdown of federal operations.
And that is what’s on track to happen, despite support for the bank from a majority of House members — almost every Democrat and several dozen Republicans.
The bank is vilified by by the most fiscally conservative members of the Republican Conference — many of whom dismiss Ex-Im’s financing tools as little more than “corporate welfare.” Among the bank’s critics are two of the three top House Republicans — Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California and Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana — as well as the influential former GOP vice presidential nominee, Ways and Means Chairman Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin.
Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, is an Ex-Im ally, but he finds himself in something of a tough spot, wanting to support the bank’s existence but not wanting to run afoul of the majority of a conference that has mobilized in opposition.
He’s said if Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, moves a reauthorization bill out of the Financial Services Committee, there would certainly be a floor vote. However, Hensarling is one of Congress’s most vocal Ex-Im opponents, and he hasn’t, and likely won’t, move anything anytime soon, and certainly not in the remaining four days of this month the House is scheduled to be in session.
Boehner’s other promise has been that if the Senate can pass reauthorization language and send it over to the House, the chamber would vote on it through an open amendment process to allow everyone to have a say.
The Senate has been bogged down in debate over the fiscal 2016 defense authorization act, however, and will this week prioritize moving pieces of President Barack Obama’s trade agenda. It has no plans to send over anything related to the Ex-Im Bank.
In an exchange with Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., on the House floor last week, McCarthy, who sets the floor schedule, made it clear nothing had changed as far as he was concerned.
Hoyer challenged McCarthy to say three times, in three different ways, that there were no plans to consider the matter on the floor in the week before the current authorization lapses.
“I won’t ask the question again,” Hoyer said. “I would simply observe, sadly, that the representation the House can work its will on an issue of great importance to the United States and to the jobs in the United States [but] will not be brought to the floor.”
Of course, just because the bank runs out of federal support starting on July 1 doesn’t mean it will completely close its doors. Letting the charter expire simply means the bank can’t continue to make new loans, not that existing financial support would evaporate.
House Republicans who support Ex-Im Bank reauthorization are frustrated, but few of them are willing to throw leaders under the bus for either opposition or refusal to undermine the critics in the conference.
“I think he’s promised both proponents and opponents a fair process,” Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., a supporter of Ex-Im, said of Boehner, of whom he’s a close ally. Cole said Republicans pushing for reauthorization have been meeting with leadership regularly to discuss the situation.
Another supporter, Rep. Tom Reed, R-N.Y., said he spoke to Ex-Im Bank President Fred Hochberg at the White House Congressional Picnic, but there’s still no path forward.
“I’m hearing discussions are being held over in the Senate,” Reed said. “Is there a vehicle they can attach it to? But nobody has any concrete plans. … It’s not going to start here in the House.”
Hochberg remains optimistic the bank will be reauthorized — even if the House misses the June 30 deadline. “Frankly, we’re going to be reauthorized; the question will be precisely when and what form,” he told Politico last month.
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