U.S. Reps Split on Bill for Ex-Im Bank to Treat Renewable-Energy and Fossil-Fuel Products Equally


Both chambers in the week of Nov. 18 will take up a stopgap fiscal 2020 funding bill to keep the government in operation after temporary spending authority expires Nov. 21.

WASHINGTON — Alabama’s representatives split along party lines last week on an amendment to another bill that would have removed provisions that favor renewable-energy sales abroad over sales of fossil-fuel products.

The House on Nov. 15 defeated, on a 188-232 vote, the GOP-sponsored amendment to HR 4863, a bill to extend the U.S. Export-Import Bank for 10 years.

The bill would require sales of renewable-energy goods and services to overseas customers to receive at least 5 percent of the Export-Import Bank’s annual lending authority. In addition, energy-related transactions would have to estimate the volume of carbon dioxide emitted by projects receiving Ex-Im subsidies. In part, the amendment would block creation of a new Ex-Im unit aimed at promoting energy-efficiency and renewable-energy exports and require the bank to weigh the overseas affordability of energy products before approving transactions.

Bill Flores, R-Texas, said: “If emissions reductions are the goal, federal policies must focus on total performance and not favor one technology over the other. In the developing world, affordable, clean energy will give people more opportunity for a better life when expensive alternatives are unaffordable.”

Sean Casten, D-Ill., said: “The science is really clear. The climate crisis is here, and we are already seeing its devastating impact. Despite the best efforts of the current administration to the contrary, the United States must be a global leader in acting to combat the climate crisis.”

A yes vote was to adopt the amendment.


Voting yes: Bradley Byrne, R-1, Martha Roby, R-2, Mike Rogers, R-3, Robert Aderholt, R-4, Mo Brooks, R-5, Gary Palmer, R-6.

Voting no: Terri Sewell, D-7

Here’s how members of Congress voted on other business during the legislative week ending Nov. 15.


Extending Export-Import Bank for 10 Years:

Voting 235 for and 184 against, the House on Nov. 15 passed a bill (HR 4863) that would reauthorize the Export-Import Bank’s congressional charter through fiscal 2029 while renaming it the United States Export Financing Agency.

The bill would increase the bank’s lending authority from $135 billion to $175 billion and require at least 5 percent of its annual financing to support sales of renewable-energy and energy-efficiency products.

Established in the New Deal, the bank provides taxpayer-backed financing to help foreign customers purchase U.S. goods and services when private-sector lenders are unable or unwilling to provide the financial assistance. Fewer than 2 percent of the Ex-Im transactions have defaulted in recent years, and the bank usually returns a profit to the Treasury. But critics say the agency distorts free markets by practicing “corporate welfare” and “crony capitalism.”

Denny Heck, D-Wash., said: “One of the most important and least understood elements of our national manufacturing strategy … . Without a robust official export-credit agency … we simply lose out on overseas sales, especially for small businesses and capital equipment makers and farmers. Every country recognizes this face, but the U.S. alone among major economies has failed to fully act on this knowledge. If we want to maximize our exports, we need to stop the sabotage of our credit agency, the Ex-Im Bank, and enhance it.”

Bill Huizenga, R-Mich., said the bill “allows the bank to provide the taxpayer financing to entities owned and controlled by the Chinese government, including Chinese state-owned enterprises involved in military activities, human rights abuses … . At a time when China is diverting massive subsidies to state-owned enterprises, specifically through the use of export subsidies, why would Congress authorize the use of taxpayer dollars to make the Chinese Communist Party’s job easier?”

A yes vote was to send the bill to the Senate.


Voting yes: Roby, Sewell, D-7

Voting no: Byrne, Rogers, Aderholt, Brooks, Palmer

Barring Assistance to Chinese Human Rights Abusers:

Voting 203 for and 218 against, the House on Nov. 15 defeated a GOP-sponsored motion to HR 4863 (above) that sought to place additional requirements on Export-Import Bank assistance designed to facilitate U.S. sales to companies owned by the Chinese government.

Under the motion, the assistance would be denied in cases where the Chinese company has a record of human rights abuses.

Denver Riggleman, R-Va., said that if members “care about what happens to freedom and democracy, and if you care about human rights around the world, and if you want to see the [Ex-Im] bank reauthorized with a purpose, then please join me in supporting this [motion].”

Denny Heck, D-Wash., opposed “turning [the bank] into a foreign policy agency.” He added: “Everyone on both sides of the chamber wants to do more to combat the competition of China and all the threats that they pose to our system of government. But passion untempered by expertise can lead to some very outcomes.”

A yes vote was to adopt the motion.


Voting yes: Byrne, Roby, Rogers, Aderholt, Brooks, Palmer

Voting no: Sewell



Chad Wolf, Homeland Security Secretary:

Voting 54 for and 41 against, the Senate on Nov. 13 confirmed Chad F. Wolf as an undersecretary at the Department of Homeland Security. The vote paved the way for his promotion a day later to the post of acting secretary of Homeland Security. He becomes President Trump’s fifth DHS secretary.

Because Wolf’s status is “acting,” he avoids a confirmation process that would vet his qualifications to run what is the government’s third-largest department with 240,000 employees. Democrats called this a misguided end-run around the Senate’s constitutional “advice and consent” authority. A former lobbyist, Wolf has held several DHS positions, including chief of staff under former Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, where he helped develop the administration’s policy of breaking up migrant families on the southwest border.

Ron Johnson, R-Wis., said: “Dedicated Americans serving at DHS in acting positions are doing admirable jobs under oftentimes difficult circumstances. I trust that Chad Wolf will do the same.”

Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., said she could not support “a nominee who played an integral role in this administration’s cruel family separation policy.”

A yes vote was to confirm the nominee.


Voting yes: Richard Shelby, R

Voting no:  Doug Jones, D 

Steven Menashi, Federal Appeals Judge:

Voting 51 for and 41 against, the Senate on Nov. 14 confirmed Steven J. Menashi, a White House counsel and former Department of Education acting counsel, as a judge on the 2nd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, which has jurisdiction over district courts in New York, Vermont and Connecticut.

Menashi has been a law clerk to Supreme Court Associate Justice Samuel Alito, an attorney in private practice and a law-school professor. He drew Democratic criticism over his authorship of a Department of Education policy denying debt relief to students defrauded by for-profit colleges, and for his stands on issues including Roe v. Wade, gun laws and LGBT rights.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said: “Even the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary, which has lately made headlines for treating President Trump’s nominees in a less-than-evenhanded way, has rated this nominee well-qualified.”

Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said “The Senate is going to be asked to confirm someone to be a judge who designed an illegal scheme to deny debt relief so as to defraud students. The man has no principles. The man has no conscience. The man has no morals. He should not be on the bench.”

A yes vote was to confirm the nominee.


Voting yes: Shelby 

Voting no:  None

Not voting:  Jones