Senate passes Ex-Im revival bill tied to highway funding; Divided House up next

The New York Times (7/27, B1, Weisman, Subscription Publication), calling it a “rare and fiery weekend session,” reports that the Senate voted 67-26 on Sunday to “resurrect” the US Export-Import Bank, dealing a “major defeat” to conservative Republicans and “setting up a showdown this week with House leaders divided over the moribund export credit agency.” The Times notes that the Ex-Im vote was an amendment to legislation that would provide funding for the nation’s highways. The story quotes NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons as saying in a statement, “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.” In the Times’ words, Sunday’s vote demonstrated that groups including the NAM “still hold some sway in a Republican Party increasingly willing to buck business lobbies.”

UPI (7/26, Ware) excerpts the same sentence from Timmons’ statement, adding that “it wasn’t clear Sunday” if the House will consider the Ex-Im provision. The story notes that Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said last week that he would wait to review any legislation emerging from the Senate before deciding his next move.

The Hill (7/24, Cirilli), in a piece published before Sunday’s vote, noted the business community’s support for the Bank because “the financing it provides helps to sustain U.S. jobs.” The NAM had “alerted members, saying it would score [their votes] in favor of the bill,” The Hill reported. On Friday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) scheduled the “procedural vote to reauthorize” the Bank’s charter through September 2019, the story added.

The Los Angeles Times (7/27, Mascaro), citing a “congressional standoff” over the legislation, says the fate of the Senate-passed highway bill “remains unclear” in the House. The Senate’s three-year, $337 billion plan to replenish the federal Highway Trust Fund, whose current financing is set to run out this Friday, “is starkly different from a stopgap House bill” that would offer funding only through December, the Times says. It cites Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx as having warned that “billions of dollars in transportation projects and thousands of jobs across the nation are at risk.”

The Washington Post (7/27, Kane, Snell) describes the Senate highway bill as “anathema to many House Republicans” due to the Ex-Im Bank amendment but also because it “does not meet the usual six-year authorization for highway funding, and its policy prescriptions differ from those backed by members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.” If the House doesn’t approve the Senate plan, the Post asserts, McConnell “may have no choice but to pass the House’s short-term extension of highway funding to buy more time to craft a six-year plan.”

Bloomberg Politics (7/26, House) reports that Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) on Sunday “drew rebukes … from fellow Republicans” after criticizing McConnell for allowing the Ex-Im amendment.

In an editorial, the Bristol (CT) Press (7/27) expresses hope that “compromise will reign” in the Ex-Im reauthorization effort, arguing that the Bank’s services, though “unfamiliar to most Americans … are vital to businesses that hope to compete globally.” The Press cites Connecticut’s two senators, Democrats Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, as emphasizing the Bank’s importance to companies in the state, particularly those in the aviation and aerospace industries. The editorial also notes that the NAM has been “strongly supportive” of the Bank.

Governors Seek Long-Term Highway Funding. Bloomberg Politics (7/27, Niquette) reports that attendees at the weekend meeting of the National Governors Association, “frustrated by 33 short-term funding extensions” for highway projects “that left them unable to plan,” said they don’t care how new legislation is funded, just that the funding is long-term.

ACA Repeal Not Added To Highway Bill; Another Attempt Expected. Bloomberg Politics (7/26, House) reports that Senate Democrats blocked an amendment to the Highway Trust Fund authorization bill that would have repealed the Affordable Care Act. According to The Hill (7/27, Ferris), the amendment was “certain to fail” and drew criticism as “a ‘show vote’ that was intended to appease conservatives angry about” the provision to reauthorize the Ex-Im Bank. Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) plans to circumvent the 60-vote threshold on the amendment by refiling it as germane to the highway funding bill, The Hill reports. When the chairman of the Senate rejects the characterization, Lee will then “formally object to the ruling — which allows a 51-vote majority to overturn the decision.”

McCaskill Provisions In Highway Bill Address Permitting, Rental Cars. KRCU-FM Cape Girardeau, MO (7/24, Howard) reported online that Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) has backed provisions in the Senate’s highway bill that would “streamline federal permitting for major construction projects” as well as a measure to establish a consumer-protection system for car rental companies. KRCU noted that the provision streamlining the federal permitting process is supported by “several groups,” including the NAM.