Senate approves $854B spending bill
US Chamber opposes Trump's Export-Import Bank nominee
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is putting its considerable heft behind the effort of business groups to reject President Trump's nominee to head up the Export-Import Bank.
The powerful business group sent a letter to Senate Banking Committee leaders saying it could not support former New Jersey Republican lawmaker Scott Garrett to head the agency but that it will back the other four nominees to fill open slots at the Ex-Im Bank.
The Chamber is "extremely concerned" about reports that the bank's opponents may attempt to derail the confirmations of the other four nominees if Garrett fails to get confirmed, wrote Suzanne Clark, the U.S. Chamber's senior executive vice president.
"We trust that senators from both parties will reject any attempt to hold qualified nominees who enjoy the support of the majority of the Senate hostage in an attempt to gain leverage for the approval of a nominee who does not enjoy the support of a majority of the Senate," Clark wrote to Banking Committee Chairman Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and ranking member Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio).
The Chamber expressed support for the nominations of Kimberly Reed, Claudia Slacik, Judith Delzoppo Pryor and Spencer Bachus, who would give the Ex-Im a long-awaited quorum that would allow the agency to make deals over $10 million again.
"The Chamber believes that re-establishing a quorum at Ex-Im is of critical importance to clear the current backlog of pending deals," Clark wrote.
In the letter, Clark said that since being nominated, Garrett "has failed to in any way publicly describe any change of heart toward Ex-Im to explain why he now wants to lead the organization that he spent so much of his career trying to shutter, nor has he committed to returning Ex-Im to a fully functional state."
In July, Jay Timmons, president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers, wrote a scathing op-ed in The Wall Street Journal railing against Garrett's bid to head the Ex-Im Bank.
Timmons called for Garrett to withdraw from contention for the job saying his "record of aggressively undermining the Ex-Im Bank is tantamount to a vicious trade war against American manufacturing workers."
The White House sent Garrett's nomination to Congress on June 19.
The Business Roundtable joined the growing business push along with state groups such as the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce and Illinois Manufacturers' Association.
General Electric and Boeing also oppose Garrett's bid for the job.
Business groups have battled with conservative members of Congress and outside groups over the past two years trying to get the bank back to full strength after a nearly six-month shutdown in 2015.
"Special interests continue to demand that the Senate confirm nominees to the Export-Import Bank so that they can resume receiving large, unnecessary subsidies bankrolled by the American taxpayer," said Andy Roth, vice president for the conservative Club for Growth.
"Chairman Crapo should reject these special interests by holding all Ex-Im nominees until Scott Garrett's nomination is considered and accepted," Roth said.
The bank guarantees loans for U.S. companies doing business in foreign countries.
"As chairman of the Ex-Im Bank, Mr. Garrett would have extraordinary powers to stop transactions from being voted on by the board, even when they have the support of a majority of board members," Clark wrote.
"While the temporary lapse in Ex-Im's charter and the lack of a quorum for the Ex-Im board have hobbled the bank's activities from the outside, confirming an opponent of Ex-Im as its chair would have the same impact regardless of a quorum," she wrote.
This story was updated at 6:05 p.m.