WASHINGTON (AP) — The House on Monday took the first steps to revive the U.S. Export-Import Bank nearly four months after its charter expired.
The 246-177 vote set the stage for additional votes Tuesday. A total of 184 Democrats joined forces with 62 Republicans in a rarely used procedural step — a petition to dislodge the bill from a panel controlled by a bank opponent.
The bank helps finance sales of U.S. exports to foreign customers. Its charter expired June 30, and it has been unable to approve new applications to help overseas buyers get financing to purchase U.S. products. Supporters say the bank helps sustain tens of thousands of manufacturing jobs.
Conservatives say the bank provides too much of its credit assistance to help well-connected corporations like the Boeing Company and General Electric. They also objected to the process in which proponents of the bank forced the issue.
"This is not regular order," said Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C. "This is shoving something down the American people's throat."
Bank supporters have been stymied by opposition from tea party Republicans, House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, and top GOP lawmakers like Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.
Such "discharge petition" efforts are rarely successful and are routinely discouraged by House leaders. But outgoing Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, who supports continuing the bank, made little if any effort to quash the petition drive once Hensarling made clear he would not advance legislation to renew the bank through his committee without more support from Republicans.
The bank's fate is uncertain in the Senate despite strong support.
The last time a discharge petition drive was successful was on 2001 campaign finance legislation.