Despite overwhelming support in the House of Representatives, the US Export-Import Bank (US Exim) still has major obstacles to overcome in the Senate before reopening its doors.
After months of stalling since the bank’s closure on June 30, the House of Representatives took matters into its own hands in October, using a rare legislative manoeuver to take the bill’s fate out of the hands of financial services committee chairman Jeb Hensarling. The “discharge petition” resulted in an overwhelming 313-118 vote in favour of renewing US Exim’s charter on October 27.
But as the world’s most domestically-opposed ECA, US Exim still isn’t seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. The bill now has to go through the Senate, which, once again, is led by someone who wants to see it dead.
Immediately after the House vote, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced that he would not devote any more floor time to legislation renewing the bank’s charter, adding: “The way to achieve [US Exim], if it’s going to be achieved in the Senate, is in the context of the highway bill.” In reality, McConnell doesn’t yet have the power to block the progress, as the Senate has already approved a highway bill package that includes the reauthorisation of US Exim.
If we’re going to get this thing passed before Congress goes on recess for the Christmas holidays, they need to be able to get this bill inside the transportation bill. John Raines, IHS
The power is now once again in the hands of the House of Representatives, which is currently drafting its own highway bill. If it adds an amendment to include US Exim, both the Senate and House bills will then be reviewed by a conference committee to ensure that they are aligned. The final bill will then be sent back to both chambers of Congress for a final vote, before reaching the president’s desk.
The problem is that the House of Representatives will vote in a new speaker by the end of this week, to replace John Boehner, and the likely winner, Paul Ryan, is another fervent opponent to US Exim.
“If the House leadership, which will now include a speaker who’s vehemently opposed to US Exim, places pressure on the people crafting the transportation bill to ensure that an amendment including Exim does not appear in the final bill, then the only viable option would be a standalone bill inside the Senate, which the Senate majority leader says he won’t allow,” explains John Raines from IHS.
He adds: “If we’re going to get this thing passed before Congress goes on recess for the Christmas holidays, they need to be able to get this bill inside the transportation bill.”
The closure of US Exim on June 30 has had a tremendous impact on US exporters, with Boeing announcing the loss of large contracts and General Electrics relocating almost 1,000 jobs overseas.