Senate panel rejects Trump’s nominee to lead Ex-Im Bank
The Senate Banking Committee on Tuesday rejected President Trump’s nominee to lead the Export-Import Bank.
The panel, in a 10-13 vote, declined to advance the nomination of Scott Garrett, a former Republican congressman from New Jersey.
Two Republicans — Sens. Mike Rounds (S.D.) and Tim Scott (S.C.) — joined Democrats in opposing the nominee.
“If there was ever somebody who didn’t belong at the helm of the Ex-Im bank, it was Scott Garrett,” said Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.).
Schumer called on Trump to withdraw Garrett’s nomination and choose someone who will “fulfill the mission of the Ex-Im bank.”
Garrett’s nomination proved deeply controversial with the Banking Committee, and his chances of being recommended by the panel seemed to plunge last week when Rounds announced he would oppose Garrett. Yet the White House refused to pull his name from consideration.
Marc Short, the White House’s legislative affairs director, on Tuesday said it was disappointing “that the Senate Banking Committee missed this opportunity to get the Export-Import Bank fully functioning again.”
Short said the White House will “work with the committee on a path forward.”
At his confirmation hearing last month, senators from both parties grilled Garrett over his push to disband the Ex-Im Bank as a member of Congress.
While in the House, Garrett was among the conservatives who persistently tried to shut down the Ex-Im Bank on the grounds that its “crony capitalism distorts the market to help some of America’s biggest companies.”
Senators questioned whether his views had changed and asked why he should be allowed to lead the agency now.
Garrett vowed that he would let the bank “continue to fully operate,” but many of the senators were unconvinced.
Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, the top Democrat on the panel, on Tuesday said senators from both parties left that Nov. 1 hearing without any concrete proof that Garrett had actually changed his mind about Ex-Im.
Rounds said he opposed Garrett’s nomination “because I believe he’s a principled man who simply believes in the abolishment of the bank.”
“I think that strong desire on his part to see it abolished as an example of crony capitalism would not have worked in the operation of the bank,” he said during the hearing.
“So while I wish him no ill, I do believe that he was not the right person to be the chairman,” he said.
Rounds said he wants to work with the White House to find a chairman who would work to reform the bank rather than kill it.
Major business groups in Washington, such as the National Association of Manufacturers, waged an aggressive campaign against Garrett, accusing him of harboring an ideological agenda for the agency.
“The Senate Banking Committee did right by America’s manufacturing workers today by rejecting Scott Garrett’s nomination,” said Jay Timmons, the group’s president and CEO.
“This agency, which has supported 1.4 million jobs over the past several years, is too important for manufacturers and our economy to be led by someone who has consistently tried to destroy it,” Timmons said.
The committee on Tuesday did approve four other nominees to serve on the Ex-Im board — Kimberly Reed, Spencer Bachus, Judith Pryor and Claudia Slacik. If they are confirmed by the Senate, that would give Ex-Im a quorum, allowing the agency to approve business deals of greater than $10 million.
The bank has lacked a quorum for nearly two years. The Banking panel under then-Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) refused to consider former President Obama’s nominees for the bank’s board.
Brown said that there are $37 billion worth of deals in the Ex-Im pipeline more than $10 million. About $8 billion to $10 billion of those could potentially be approved within a month, he said.
Timmons urged the Senate to quickly confirm the other four nominees so the Ex-Im Bank can operate at full strength.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) office said they had no guidance about whether the Senate would take up the four nominations to the five-member board.
The Ex-Im Bank lends money to foreign buyers to promote U.S. exports, with Boeing and General Electric the two biggest beneficiaries of the financing.
A GE spokesperson said the committee’s vote against Garrett is “a milestone for manufacturers across the U.S. whose customers require a fully functioning Ex-Im Bank.”
“We urge the full Senate to move quickly on behalf of U.S. workers and companies of all sizes to guarantee the Bank can once again operate at full strength,” the spokesperson said.
– This story was updated at 1:39 p.m. Jordan Fabian contributed.