The Senate Banking Committee could vote this month to approve former congressman Scott Garrett (R-NJ) as the president of the Export-Import Bank, which helps U.S. businesses broker deals abroad. President Trump, who previously opposed the Ex-Im Bank before reversing course, nominated Garrett, who previously tried to shut down the bank, back in April. Because of his many divisive positions, his nomination was steeped in controversy.
Garrett has a long history of making radical statements and casting votes that are offensive to people of all stripes: He once said that “ethnicities” are inherently untrustworthy, later clarifying that he had meant “people in other countries.” He refused to support any version of the Violence Against Women Act. Garrett also wants to privatize Social Security and thought that disaster relief after Hurricane Sandy — for his home state of New Jersey — was “wasteful spending.”
Garrett has also advocated extensively against gay rights. In 2015, he refused to pay his dues to the National Republican Campaign Committee because it occasionally recruited and supported openly gay candidates. He sponsored the First Amendment Defense Act, a bill that would ensure that business owners are free to refuse service to gay customers. In 2004, he also supported a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage claiming, “If we redefine marriage, it will harm everyone, especially the children. It will legally repudiate the idea that marriage has anything to do with a family, and will legally embrace the idea that marriage is just an arrangement for the convenience of the grownups.”
If confirmed, Garrett would serve alongside Claudia Slacik, who has been nominated to the Ex-Im Board of Directors. In her opening statement to the Committee last month, she spoke openly of her spouse, Susan Davis, who attended the hearing to support her.
Garrett’s controversial record and past opposition to the Ex-Im Bank has led to some complicated politicking throughout his confirmation. Many influential companies and business groups, along with LGBTQ advocates, have opposed his nomination, prompting some Republican senators to second-guess their willingness to vote for him. But a slate of other Republicans have threatened to hold up the other nominees to the Bank’s board if Garrett is not confirmed.
The controversy over Garrett’s nomination is itself a problem for the Bank. As the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), which strongly opposes his confirmation, pointed out last week, the time being spent considering him has consequences for those impacted by the Bank’s work. Because conservatives have opposed filling the Ex-Im Bank’s board for the past several years, it has $37.5 billion in pending transactions that are stalled by a lack of quorum. Without the revenue from those transactions, both businesses and taxpayers will miss out; those deals were projected to produce a $492 million surplus that would return to Treasury.
NAM is calling on the Senate to reject Garrett but approve the other board members so that the Bank can resume its work.