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House Votes to Reauthorize Export-Import Bank

US Capitol House

In a rare instance of bipartisanship, House representatives on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank by 313 votes to 118.

The majority of Republicans sided with nearly all Democrats in favor of reopening the 81-year-old trade-financing agency, which has been shut since July 1 when its charter was forced to expire.

Since then, the bank—which provides funding to foreign buyers of U.S. goods—has only been able to service existing loans and supporters have said that its closure could put American jobs at risk.

That’s why Stephen Fincher (R-Tennessee) recently circulated a discharge petition that would bring the Ex-Im reauthorization bill to the House floor, a rarely used legislative move that lends power to a majority of lawmakers.

“It’s time for Washington to get out of the way and quit killing American jobs. A vote to reform and reauthorize the Bank must be held immediately—too many jobs are on the line,” Fincher said in a statement earlier this month. “We have no choice. We must get this done for the American people.”

Tuesday’s victory was a big step towards achieving that.

“This is a win for small businesses, hardworking Americans and for rank and file members who want to get things done for their constituents,” Fincher said. “With broad support for the Ex-Im Bank in both Chambers of Congress, we now call on Senate leadership to immediately advance this bill so we can provide American job creators with the certainty they need to tackle new markets, expand opportunities and create jobs.”

Created during the Depression, Ex-Im supported $230 billion in U.S. exports across 7,230 American exporters between 2007 and 2014. Supporters have stressed that providing financial assistance to larger exporters, such as Boeing, Caterpillar and General Electric, sustains many small U.S. businesses that make up the supply chains of bigger firms.

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But the bank’s detractors continue to criticize it and call it corporate welfare.

“Are we going to reward good work or good connections?” said Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin), chairman of the Ways and Means committee, who is widely expected to become the next House speaker on Thursday. “I think there are plenty other ways to expand opportunity in this country and corporate welfare is not one of them.”

He added, “This thing is crony capitalism and I urge it be rejected.”

Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, who fought to close the bank last summer, said, “Ex-Im is a part of yesterday’s economy. Our focus needs to be on tomorrow’s economy and on reforms that will give every American greater opportunity to succeed. Fundamental tax reform, tort reform and regulatory reform will do more to grow our economy and help small business entrepreneurs than corporate welfare ever could. Healthy debate on these issues, not discharge petitions for corporate welfare, are a much better use of Congress’s time. It’s hard work, but it is necessary for the American people.”

The House bill now goes to the Senate.