WASHINGTON — In a rare and fiery weekend session, the Senate voted on Sunday to resurrect the federal Export-Import Bank, handing the Republican Party’s most conservative wing a major defeat and setting up a showdown this week with House leaders divided over the moribund export credit agency.
The bipartisan vote, 67 to 26, broke a filibuster and allowed supporters to attach a measure to a three-year highway and infrastructure bill that would reauthorize the Export-Import Bank. That bill is expected to pass the Senate early this week.
The agency’s authorization expired on June 30, halting all new loan guarantees and other assistance to foreign customers seeking to purchase goods from American companies. The agency continues to service existing loans.
A clear majority in the House supports resurrecting the agency, but it will be up to House leaders to decide whether the chamber will get a vote, or whether to allow the bank’s powerful opponents — led by the House majority leader, the majority whip, the Ways and Means Committee chairman and the Financial Services Committee chairman — to stand in the way.
The agency has become the subject of a kind of proxy war between the Republican Party’s ideological conservatives, who have called the bank an unnecessary bastion of crony capitalism, and its pro-business wing, which sees it as vital to American exporters competing against foreign governments that routinely support their industries.
Influential conservatives like Charles and David Koch and the Club for Growth political action committee have made opposition to the bank, known as Ex-Im, a litmus test for their financial support, persuading all but one Republican presidential candidate, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, to advocate the bank’s demise.
But Sunday’s session showed that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and National Association of Manufacturers still hold some sway in a Republican Party increasingly willing to buck business lobbies.
“With more than 60 export credit agencies enabling our foreign competitors to seize opportunities away from workers, it’s critical that Congress restores this important tool for American exports,” Jay Timmons, the president of the manufacturers’ association, said on Sunday.
The Sunday session to hasten action on the highway bill, called by Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, came as tensions rose between Republican leaders and rank-and-file conservatives, intensified by the presidential candidacies of four Republican senators — Ted Cruz of Texas, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Marco Rubio of Florida and Mr. Graham.
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