In a show of dissatisfaction with Republican leaders, a group of House Republicans is attempting to reauthorize the controversial Export-Import Bank through a legislative procedure that rarely succeeds.
According to reports, Rep. Stephen Fincher, R-Tenn., is collecting signatures for a discharge petition, which would force a vote on reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank. Fincher began the process for filing the petition earlier this week and is reported to have more than 30 Republican supporters.
The discharge petition, which requires 218 signatures, would allow for a bill reauthorizing Ex-Im to bypass the House Financial Services Committee and move directly to the House floor for a vote.
However, the legislative procedure is a sign of disapproval toward Republican leaders and House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling, whose committee has jurisdiction over the bank.
Ex-Im provided taxpayer-backed loans and loan guarantees for foreign countries and companies for the purchase of U.S. products. The bank’s charter expired June 30—the first time its charter has lapsed in Ex-Im’s 81-year history.
A number of GOP leaders, including Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Majority Whip Steve Scalise, Hensarling, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, and Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price, opposed the bank, and they argued that it furthered cronyism and corporate welfare.
Despite their opposition, 60 Republicans signed onto legislation reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank introduced in January. Another bill—introduced by Fincher last week—bringing the bank back to life has 44 GOP supporters.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Thursday she was “optimistic” about Republicans’ efforts to gather enough signatures to move the petition forward, and she said her fellow Democrats would “join in.”
Supporters like Fincher say Ex-Im creates jobs in the U.S. and helps small businesses compete in the global market.
“It’s time for Washington to get out of the way and quit killing American jobs,” Fincher said in a statement. “A vote to reform and reauthorize the bank must be held immediately—too many jobs are on the line. We have no choice, we must get this done for the American people.”
Fincher’s attempt to revive Ex-Im through a discharge petition earned him criticism from Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus and one of the bank’s most vocal opponents in Congress.
“Look, if we allow corporate welfare to be resurrected with 60 percent of our party thinking we have betrayed them, then that’s just ridiculous,” Jordan said in an interview with The Daily Signal, referencing the Republicans who oppose the bank.
“This is like, come on, this thing has been dead now for three months. If we’re going to bring it back to life when our party knows this is the wrong thing to do, knows we shouldn’t be doing special deals for corporate interests, this is just wrong.”
Fincher reportedly shared the details of his plan with House Speaker John Boehner, who will retire October 30. Though Boehner has not discussed the possibility of the discharge petition, he has said in the past that he supported any plan Hensarling moved through his committee.
McCarthy’s office did not return requests for comment.
In an interview with The Daily Signal, Jordan noted that Ex-Im’s inspector general warned that there are 31 open investigations into alleged fraud at the bank, which shows that the agency is ripe with the potential for fraud and abuse.
“Resurrecting corporate welfare is not how we’re going to change Washington and get done what the American people sent us here to do,” Jordan said.
“Resurrecting this special program where corporations cozy up to government and get special deals, resurrecting that is not what the voters sent us here to do,” he continued. “In fact, they sent us here to stop that stuff. We should do that. We’re the party of free markets, not cronyism and special deals.”
Lawmakers have rarely been effective in using discharge petitions. The measure was last used successfully in 2002 for campaign finance reform championed by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and former Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis.
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