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House Votes to Renew Export-Import Bank Charter Over GOP Opposition

November 18, 2019 by Dan McCue
Export-Import Bank of the United States. (Photo by Dan McCue)

WASHINGTON – The House voted on Friday to renew the charter of the Export-Import Bank, the U.S. agency that provides loans and other help to foreign buyers of U.S. exports, despite opposition from Republican lawmakers.

Despite the bank having historically enjoyed strong bipartisan support, only 13 Republican House members joined Democrats in endorsing the measure.

The most recent authorization of the bank expired at the end of September with the close of the government’s fiscal year, but was temporarily renewed via a stopgap spending bill through Dec. 20.

Shortly before the vote, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the Senate would not pass the House bill, preferring to maintain funding for the bank through a larger government spending bill.

The White House has also said that should the Senate take up the measure, it would be vetoed when it reached the president’s desk.

The measure passed in the House, H.R. 4863, would reauthorize the bank for ten years, increases its lending authority to $175 billion, and create procedures to avoid a lapse in the Board’s quorum.

It includes new provisions to extend more financing to small businesses, provisions to assist minority- and women-owned businesses, and pro-environmental provisions to support renewable energy exports.

Supporters of the bank, including most Democrats and the GOP’s establishment wing, said foreign governments unfairly subsidize domestic companies and that the bank helps level the playing field.

Among those who endorsed the measure was the New Democrat Coalition. Coalition members serve as a key block in the House Financial Services Committee, and as part of that panel, coalition member Rep. Denny Heck, D-Wash., played a key role in ensuring the bank’s reauthorization had both business and labor support.

Heck said in a statement that he considered reauthorizing the bank to be one of his top priorities since he arrived in Congress in 2013.

“Not only will this reauthorization bill help small businesses compete in global markets, but it will enable the U.S. to continue to be a country that is home to the most advanced manufacturing in the world,” he said.

In the same statement, New Democrat Coalition Chair Derek Kilmer said the bank is “an essential tool in the trade toolbox that helps enable American-made products to be sold around the world and supports the growth of our local jobs.”

A 2015 measure reauthorizing the bank won a sweeping bipartisan vote in a GOP-controlled Congress after establishment Republicans prevailed over GOP tea party forces.

However, the bank effectively languished without a quorum until this spring when the Senate confirmed a slate of nominees that allowed the bank to process larger transactions.

Among the changes sought by Republicans were provisions to ban the bank from dealing with state-owned enterprises in China and Russia and increased focus on helping small businesses benefit from the bank’s activities.

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