WASHINGTON — The fight to revive the Export-Import Bank of the United States wages on.
The U.S. House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly, 313-118, Tuesday night to reauthorize the controversial government agency. That wide margin included support from House Republicans — including six Texans — who just the night before had voted against allowing the bank's reauthorization bill to reach the House floor.
A pair of Republican Capitol Hill staffers said that many members who supported the bank itself were not fans of the obscure, rarely used procedural tactics that its advocates used to force reauthorization Monday night. Essentially, Democrats and a restive band of moderate Republicans bypassed leadership and the committee process to move the bill to a vote.
Eight Texas Republicans voted against moving the bill forward on Monday night but then backed reauthorization on Tuesday night: U.S. Reps. Joe Barton of Ennis, Kevin Brady of the Woodlands, Kay Granger of Fort Worth, Will Hurd of San Antonio, Pete Sessions of Dallas and Mac Thornberry of Clarendon.
Voting Monday night to move the bill to the floor would have been thumbing one's nose at House Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling of Dallas, the sources said. Hensarling, the highest-profile opponent of the Export-Import Bank, quickly issued a lengthy statement after the vote outlining his distaste for the bank.
But after Tuesday's vote, Hensarling aimed his ire at House Democrats, not the 127 Republicans who joined them to vote for reauthorization.
"By voting for Ex-Im, Democrats are throwing Wall Street a big, wet kiss," he said. The reauthorization now heads to the U.S. Senate, where its fate is unclear.
The Export-Import Bank is a government agency that uses loan guarantees, direct loans, insurance and other support to help U.S. businesses sell goods overseas. The GOP's business establishment — groups like manufacturers' trade associations and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce — backs the bank, arguing that it costs the federal government no money to operate and creates jobs.
Tea Party and limited-government groups despise the agency, calling it corrupt and a source of "corporate cronyism." Export-Import has advocates who are just as committed to its survival and who argue that it is necessary to help large and small businesses compete overseas.
This bill was more than a reauthorization — it was a reform bill with stated goals to improve "transparency" and "accountability."
While Tuesday night marked a major step forward to the Export-Import Bank's survival, there are no assurances a stand-alone bill will pass the Senate.