• Sens. Graham, Cantwell Threaten To Torpedo TPA Over Ex-Im

    Legislation to expedite approval of trade deals appeared ready pass Tuesday until two senators made their support conditional on a vote to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank.

    Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell and Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, both of whom have previously cast procedural votes in favor of Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), announced that they would suspend their support for a measure to speed up debate on the bill until they receive assurances that the Senate would be allowed to vote on extending Ex-Im’s charter, Reuters reports(RELATED: Why Are Senate Republicans So Eager To Cede Their Trade Authority To Obama?)

    Prior to the senators’ rebellion, supporters were optimistic that they had finally lined up enough votes to pass the TPA, which would allow the president to submit free-trade agreements to the Senate for an up-or-down vote with no opportunity for amendments. TPA is widely considered essential to securing approval of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an agreement among 12 Pacific Ocean nations to reduce trade barriers.

    “You are not going to get my vote for cloture or anything else this year until we get a vote on the Ex-Im Bank,” Graham said on the Senate floor. (RELATED: Lindsey Graham Calls on Conservatives to Support Ex-Im)

    Ex-Im is a New Deal-era government agency that provides financing assistance to American exporters. Supporters say it is essential to making American goods competitive in the global marketplace, but opponents counter that the bank serves primarily as a source of corporate welfare for large corporations.

    The bank’s current charter expires on June 30, and while there is strong bipartisan support in the Senate for a multi-year extension, Ex-Im’s prospects appear increasingly bleak in the House. (RELATED: Is the Export-Import Bank Done?)

    Graham and Cantwell did not specify whether reauthorization should be included as an amendment to the TPA bill or brought to the floor separately, but in either case, the vote would be mostly symbolic, according to Republican Rep. Jeb Hensarling, who chairs the Financial Services Committee (through which Ex-Im reauthorization would have to pass).

    At a press conference earlier on Tuesday, Hensarling stated unequivocally that the House would be able to block reauthorization, regardless of anything the Senate might do to try to force a vote. (RELATED: Hensarling: ‘Momentum is in Our Favor’ for Ending Ex-Im)

    “Momentum is in our favor,” Hensarling said, noting that Speaker of the House John Boehner has pledged to follow normal procedures with regard to Ex-Im. As long as Boehner sticks to that promise, Hensarling vowed that his committee would bury any bill or remove any amendment extending the bank’s charter.

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