- Maria Recio American-Statesman special correspondent
In a rare rejection of a Trump administration nominee by Republicans, the Senate Banking Committee voted down a former GOP congressman to head the Export-Import Bank, a move supported by Texas business interests who depend on bank financing to support exports.
At the same time, the committee advanced four nominees to the bank’s board of directors, giving the bank a quorum for the first time in nearly two years to approve deals over $10 million.
“We see the Ex-Im Bank as vitally important to Texas,” said Chris Wallace, president of the Texas Association of Business. “We have to have a president of the bank who is a proponent of the Export-Import Bank’s mission, not someone who’s opposed to it.”
Texas is the nation’s largest exporting state and some Texas executives who use the bank’s financing were leery of the nominee, former U.S. Rep. Scott Garrett of New Jersey, who had fought for the bank’s elimination during his time in Congress.
Two Republicans joined all Democrats on the committee to vote 13-10 to reject Garrett for the nomination.
Since the Depression, the Export-Import Bank has offered government-backed loan guarantees to overseas customers wishing to buy products manufactured in the United States. But the agency — once backed by large majorities in both parties — has more recently divided Republicans.
Some have said the bank amounts to crony capitalism and called for its closure. Others, bolstered by business groups like the National Association of Manufacturers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, have tried to revive it. The agency has been effectively crippled since 2015.
“We are disappointed that the Senate Banking Committee missed this opportunity to get the Export-Import Bank fully functioning again. We will continue to work with the committee on a path forward,” said Marc Short, White House Director of Legislative Affairs. In the daily White House briefing, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, “We’re certainly very disappointed.”
Meanwhile, the votes in favor of four nominees to the bank’s board — who still must be approved by the full Senate — came as welcome news to bank supporters who rely on its federal guarantees of financing to support export sales.
“We need a quorum. We need a fully functioning bank. We need it for the U.S economy,” said David Ickert, vice president of finance for Air Tractor Inc. in Olney, 100 miles west of Fort Worth, maker of turboprop aircraft used for fire fighting and crop dusting. Although his company’s deals are under the $10 million threshold, Ickert said that the backlog has hurt many smaller companies who are part of the supply chain for larger companies, like Boeing.
Boeing, the world’s largest maker of commercial aircraft, which has operations in Texas, is one of the largest users of the bank.
“With these four nominees, the bank could – for the first time in two years – have the quorum it needs to support thousands of American jobs that depend on the more than $37.5 billion in export deals currently awaiting approval,” said Tim Keating, senior vice president for government operations for Boeing.
Additional material from The New York Times.