WASHINGTON -- The Democratic-controlled House split along party lines Friday to pass a measure renewing the charter of the Export-Import Bank, a U.S. agency that provides loans and other help to foreign buyers of U.S. exports.
Just 13 Republicans joined with Democrats to pass the measure, a tally that could actually be a setback to efforts to pass a long-term reauthorization of the bank, which has always enjoyed sweeping bipartisan support.
The White House has issued a veto threat and the legislation is dead on arrival in the GOP-controlled Senate. Authorization for the bank is now likely to be carried on short-term government funding bills.
Republicans say Financial Services Committee Democrats walked away from a bipartisan agreement that had been struck in advance of a committee vote last month.
“We had a good faith negotiation and the majority decided to walk away ... because of union opposition,” said Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., the top Republican on the Financial Services Committee, citing the machinists. “They have all their Democrat priorities in there and zero Republican priorities that I negotiated.”
A handful of liberal Democrats also opposed the measure.
Friday’s vote also reflects an increasingly toxic environment in the House, where impeachment proceedings are dominating attention. Democrats made little effort to attract Republican votes in the wake of a marathon committee session last month, though GOP-leaning groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce supported the effort.
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. But the bank languished without a quorum until this spring when the Senate finally confirmed a slate of nominees that allowed the bank to process larger transactions to help companies like Boeing and others with export deals.
It has many GOP critics who say it distorts markets and that too much of its help benefits large corporations like Boeing. Some U.S. businesses, including airlines, say the bank effectively subsidizes foreign competitors.
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.
Financial Services Chairwoman Maxine Waters, D-Calif., touted the creation of a new office for renewable energy exports and stronger environmental standards.
Supporters of the bank, including most Democrats and the GOP's establishment wing, say foreign governments unfairly subsidize domestic companies and that the bank helps level the playing field.
“If we fail to reauthorize the bank, American businesses will be harmed, and thousands of jobs will be lost,” Waters said, noting that the legislation has the support of both business and labor.
The bank’s charter expired at the end of September but has been temporarily renewed through a government-wide stopgap spending bill and will likely again be extended next week with renewal of the stopgap measure through Dec. 20.