The move doesn’t quite guarantee that Ex-Im—as it’s known in Washington—will be reauthorized. The Senate has approved it, but as part of a separate highway bill that hasn’t passed the House. And while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he won’t block renewal of the bank’s charter despite his personal opposition, there’s no equivalent process to quickly force a vote in the upper chamber. “The Senate is not going to spend a week on a bill that the leader doesn’t support,” McConnell spokesman Don Stewart said. Still, supporters of the bank said that once bipartisan majorities are established in both the House and Senate, final passage is only a matter of time.
The broader significance of the move is that dozens of House Republicans dared to try it at all. The little-known lending agency has long supported U.S. jobs by helping companies find markets overseas, but conservatives have turned its demise into a rallying cry against corporate welfare, arguing that it gives taxpayer dollars to giants like Boeing and G.E. that don’t need government subsidies. Outside groups succeeded in pressuring two of the three top House Republicans to oppose it. While House Speaker John Boehner has supported the Export-Import Bank, he has lacked the political capital to go around the chairman of the Financial Services Committee, Jeb Hensarling, who has made it a personal mission to kill the bank. Even after Boehner announced his resignation, it was unclear whether he would bring up the legislation on his own.