Ex-Im Bank Amendment Expected in Highway BillJuly 22, 2015
On July 15, the House approved by a 312-119 vote, a short-term, $8 billion extension of federal highway transportation funding, through December. Upon passage, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said that the Senate should follow suit and send the lower chamber back a clean highway funding extension with no “unrelated measures.” Both lawmakers were referring to a Senate plan to include an amendment that would reauthorize the U.S. Export-Import Bank’s (Ex-Im’s) charter in the Senate version of the highway bill.
Ex-Im’s charter expired on June 30, and with its authority lapsing for the first time in the Bank’s 81-year history, Ex-Im can no longer process new applications, but it can continue to oversee its existing financing. Ex-Im helps to create and maintain U.S. jobs by filling gaps in private export financing at no cost to the American taxpayers—providing a variety of financial mechanisms, including working capital financing, export-credit insurance and financial guarantees to help foreign buyers purchase U.S. goods and services.
Congress failed to address the charter’s expiration before they adjourned for the July 4 recess, but the Bank’s supporters—including Sens. Maria Cantwell (R-Wash.), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), and Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.)—plan to seek to renew the charter retroactively this month. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said that he would allow Bank supporters to include a five-year reauthorization of the agency by attaching it to the highway funding bill that must pass by the end of the month.
A reauthorization amendment will most likely pass—as there are approximately 190 Democrats and 60 Republicans in the House who already publicly support bills to reauthorize the bank, and therefore, opponents would be unlikely to generate enough votes to remove the reauthorization from the highway bill. Also, the Senate held a test vote on Ex-Im’s reauthorization last month, and 65 Senators on both sides of the aisle expressed support for the Bank.
On July 21, a bipartisan transportation deal was unveiled by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) would authorize highway and transit programs for six years but only provide three years of funding. The Senate is anxiously trying to wrap up work on a multi-year transportation bill so House lawmakers have enough time to consider the proposal before the August recess.