The Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee on Tuesday rejected former Rep. Scott Garrett’s nomination to lead the Export-Import Bank, a federal agency that assists in financing and facilitating trade between the U.S. and other nations.
Garrett, a Republican, formerly represented New Jersey’s 5th congressional district in the House. During his House tenure, he supported shutting down the Export-Import Bank, claiming that it was “taxpayer-funded welfare for mega-corporations.” In 2015, Garrett led a conservative effort to abolish the bank. Despite Garrett’s previous stance, President Trump nominated him to lead Ex-Im in June.
During testimony on Nov. 1, Garrett said that he would keep Ex-Im running if confirmed and support a 2019 reauthorization of the lending agency.
“My role has changed,” Garrett said. “I am not in a legislative function. I do commit sincerely to carry out the letter of the law as established by Congress.”
But Garrett was rejected in a 10-13 vote on Tuesday, with two Republicans — Sens. Mike Rounds (S.D.) and Tim Scott (S.C.) — joining with Democrats on the committee to reject the nomination, a rare break from Trump for Republicans.
Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-12) supported the decision to block Garrett’s nomination.
“In rejecting the nomination of Scott Garrett to lead the Export-Import Bank of the United States, Senators — both Democrats and Republicans, alike — affirm how damaging his leadership would be to this vital agency,” she said in a statement. “Throughout his tenure in Congress, Mr. Garrett led the charge to oppose ExIm, so, it defies logic that he would ever be considered to lead the Bank with the opportunity to sabotage it from within.”
Garrett lost his 2016 re-election bid to Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-5), a victory that saw the North Jersey district switch parties for the first time in recent memory. Garrett’s opponent seized on statements Garrett allegedly made in 2015 that he would not pay National Republican Congressional Committee dues because of the organization’s support of gay candidates.
The Ex-Im bank has been hobbled since 2015 due to a lack of board quorum. On Tuesday, the committee approved nominations for four other Ex-Im board positions. But Garret’s rejection means that the bank will remain without a leader until a new nominee can be put forward and go through the nomination process.
“We are disappointed that the Senate Banking Committee missed this opportunity to get the Export-Import Bank fully functioning again,” said Marc Short, White House director of legislative affairs, in a statement. “We will continue to work with the committee on a path forward.”