Senate confirms Trump pick for small business chief


The Senate on Tuesday confirmed Jovita Carranza to head President Trump’s Small Business Administration (SBA). 

Carranza, a Treasury Department official who served as deputy SBA administrator during George W. Bush’s presidency, was confirmed in a broad bipartisan 88-5 vote and has widespread support from the business community. 

Democratic Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), Kamala Harris (Calif.), Ed Markey (Mass.), Jeff Merkley (Ore.) and Ron Wyden (Ore.) voted against Carranza.

Among those not voting were Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), all 2020 Democratic presidential candidates.

Carranza will become the highest-ranking Latina official in Trump’s Cabinet, and the vote gives the close ally of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin a prominent role in defending the administration’s economic policies in the election year.

She will be the first permanent head of the SBA in almost a year. Trump’s first Senate-confirmed SBA administrator, Linda McMahon, left the position last April to take a position at a pro-Trump super PAC. Chris Pilkerton is currently serving as acting administrator of the SBA.

Since 2017, Carranza has served as U.S. Treasurer. In that role, she has been an adviser to Mnuchin and has worked on financial literacy issues and the “opportunity zones” program created by Trump’s 2017 tax law that provides capital gains tax breaks to investors who invest in economically distressed communities.

Carranza spent much of her professional life at UPS, starting with a part-time job loading shipments onto trucks and eventually becoming the highest-ranked Latina in the history of the company.

During her confirmation hearing in December, Carranza said that she planned if confirmed to “put particular emphasis on opening more doors for women and for entrepreneurs in underserved communities, including military families and veterans.”

She also said she “will be a tireless advocate in the Cabinet for small businesses.”

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), chairman of the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, said ahead of the vote Tuesday that he looks forward to working with Carranza “to modernize our existing programs, to meet the challenges that we have before us, and working toward solutions that ensure that small businesses have access to the resources they need to start, to grow and to empower our nation at large.”

The top Democrat on the committee, Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), said Monday that the SBA needs bold leadership at a time when small business owners are becoming more diverse, and he is “optimistic that Treasurer Carranza can be the leader and advocate that SBA and American small businesses need right now.”

Cardin backed Carranza on a procedural vote Monday but wasn’t present for her final confirmation vote because he was in Maryland ahead of the opening of the state General Assembly’s session.

Business groups across the ideological spectrum said that they were eager to have a permanent head of the SBA and were looking forward to working with her.

A group of business organizations said in a letter to senators Tuesday that having Senate-confirmed leadership of the SBA will help to ensure that the department’s programs that provide small businesses with access to capital and disaster assistance are working effectively. Groups that signed the letter include the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the International Franchise Association, the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) and the National Association of Realtors. 

“Her coming on board provides that leadership continuity that’s needed,” said Tom Sullivan, vice president of small business policy at the U.S. Chamber, who also had a role at the SBA when Carranza was deputy administrator.

Representatives for groups that support many of Trump’s economic policies think Carranza could be an asset in advancing and promoting the president’s agenda, especially when it comes to Trump’s priority of regulatory relief. 

“Having a person in leadership at the SBA allows the administration to go champion their economic message across the country and talk about the things they’ve done, whether its tax reform or regulatory relief,” said Matt Haller, a senior vice president at the International Franchise Association.

Mnuchin also praised Carranza on Tuesday.

“At the Treasury Department, Jovita worked to advance a pro-growth agenda that led to the strongest economy in generations and helped promote prosperity through financial literacy,” the Treasury secretary said in a statement. “I look forward to working with Jovita in her new role, and I know that her experience will prove invaluable as she advances the SBA’s mission to start, build, and grow businesses around the United States of America.”

Carranza said in her confirmation hearing that when she met with Trump to discuss the SBA role, she told him that her commitment was “to exceed his expectations.”

Karen Harned, executive director of the NFIB’s small business legal center, said that McMahon seemed to put a focus on regulatory relief and that the NFIB “would want the new administrator to continue to be involved in that.” She said that NFIB hopes Carranza strengthens an independent office housed in the SBA that works with other agencies to ensure that federal regulations don’t excessively burden small businesses.

Business groups that have been critical of Trump’s tax law have also been positive about Carranza and hope that they can work with her.

“This is a fresh opportunity for the administration to refocus on issues or measures that could actually help small businesses,” said Frank Knapp, co-chair of Businesses for Responsible Tax Reform.

Groups also said they appreciated Carranza’s interest in bolstering the SBA’s efforts to help women and minority business owners.

“We want to make sure that is actually done,” said Renee Johnson, senior government affairs manager for the Main Street Alliance.

Ramiro A. Cavazos, president and CEO of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, said that in advance of Carranza’s confirmation, his group has met with SBA staff about working to increase the number of Hispanic Americans receiving loans from banks and contracts from the federal government.

“We want to hit the ground running as soon as she’s confirmed,” Cavazos said.

Updated at 5:42 p.m.

Tags Amy Klobuchar Ben Cardin Bernie Sanders Brian Schatz Cory Booker Donald Trump Ed Markey Edward Markey Elizabeth Warren Jeff Merkley Kirsten Gillibrand Linda McMahon Marco Rubio Ron Wyden Steven Mnuchin

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