On a 67-26 roll-call vote, the Senate added language to a federal highway and infrastructure bill that would renew the bank’s authorization to conduct new transactions, which expired on June 30. That bill is expected to pass the Senate early this week, but its fate in the House remains uncertain.
The discussion surrounding what to do with the languishing EXIM Bank has caused a divide between conservatives and Republican leaders. According to The New York Times, activist conservative groups like Heritage Action and Freedom Partners saw the bank and its status as an opportunity to get back at President Obama after their efforts to defund the Affordable Care Act and reverse the president’s executive orders on immigration failed.
“They hoped that if they could make sure Congress did nothing to save the bank, its future lending operations would go dark this summer,” The Times reported.
Opponents of the bank’s reauthorization say its existence is a form of corporate welfare, while supporters point to the fact that many other countries use similar means to get their companies to sell successfully to global markets, as well as highlight the jobs the bank provides.
Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said on the floor Sunday that it was time for Republicans to “move on” and not take another “politically motivated vote.”
“Companies like Boeing, Caterpillar, General Electric, Honeywell, along with dozens of companies in sparsely populated Nevada, along with thousands of small businesses across this country, use this Bank to find a market for billions of dollars of their exports,” Reid said.
In 2015 alone, he said, the EXIM bank supported 165,000 domestic jobs.
Sunday’s Senate vote doesn’t mean the bank will soon be able to execute new lending transactions, however. The House already passed a short-term highway bill this month that would replenish the trust fund for highway programs until mid-December as lawmakers work out a longer-term plan.
That funding for highway programs will otherwise run out on Friday, just as Congress breaks for six-weeks.
If the House bats down the Senate’s highway bill, with the EXIM reauthorization attached, before Congress heads out for recess, things could be bleak for the bank as the Senate may have little other choice than to vote on the House’s version of highway bill that comes sans the EXIM Bank inclusion.