Senate Banking Committee Rejects Trump's Nominee to Lead Ex-Im Bank

Former Rep. Scott Garrett (R-N.J.) testifies during a Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee hearing Nov. 1, 2017. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via AP Images)

WASHINGTON — The Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee today shot down President Trump’s pick to lead the Export-Import Bank amid bipartisan unease that former Rep. Scott Garrett (R-N.J.) would work to undermine the institution from within.

The committee vote was 10-13, with Sens. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) and Tim Scott (R-S.C.) voting against Garrett along with all of the committee’s Democrats.

“I believe he’s a principled man who simply believes in the abolishment of the bank,” Rounds said. “While I wish him no ill, I believe he’s not the right person to be the chairman.”

Trump nominated Garrett in June, prompting immediate calls from Democrats for the president to withdraw the nomination.

“If there was ever somebody who didn’t belong at the helm of the Ex-Im bank, it was Scott Garrett. With today’s bipartisan rejection of Mr. Garrett, millions of Americans whose jobs and small businesses rely on the bank can breathe a sigh of relief,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said this morning in a statement. “The White House should now withdraw Mr. Garrett’s nomination and quickly nominate a chair that will actually fulfill the mission of the Ex-Im bank, and in the meantime, Leader McConnell should move quickly to confirm the other five pending nominees at the bank and restore a quorum so that the bank can once again operate at full capacity.”

The bank’s lack of quorum since 2015 has prevented it from approving or guaranteeing loans over $10 million.

“We are disappointed that the Senate Banking Committee missed this opportunity to get the Export Import Bank fully functioning again,” responded White House legislative director Marc Short. “We will continue to work with the committee on a path forward.”

At his November confirmation hearing, Ranking Member Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said putting Garrett, who has slammed the bank as “corporate welfare,” in charge of Ex-Im “would be like putting an arsonist in charge of the fire department.”

“China provides more credit every two years than Ex-Im has over its entire 80-year history. In the face of that foreign competition, Mr. Garrett has called for unilateral disarmament. During his time in Congress, he was a leader of the effort to slam shut the doors of America’s export financing bank,” Brown said. “Opponents of the bank like Mr. Garrett have ignored basic facts, manufactured false allegations, and disregarded common sense to justify their position.”

Garrett told the committee then to “rest assured that I’m committed to keep the Bank fully open and fully operational, period.” He said he would support reauthorization of Ex-Im when it comes up in 2019.

When asked by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) if his “crusade to kill the bank was a mistake,” Garrett pointed to a different administration being in charge since he was vocal in 2015 about taking down Ex-Im.

“I believe that Ex-Im is an element, maybe element is not a good word, how about a tool in the toolbox, it might be a good expression,” he later said.

Business groups opposing Garrett’s nomination included the National Association of Manufacturers, the Chamber of Commerce and the Aerospace Industries Association.

“The Senate Banking Committee did right by America’s manufacturing workers today by rejecting Scott Garrett’s nomination,” NAM president and CEO Jay Timmons said. “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.”

He concurred that it’s “critical that the Senate move quickly to confirm the other four nominees so that the Ex-Im Bank can get back to operating at full strength” so Ex-Im can “enhance American competitiveness and support manufacturing workers.”